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Fire Interest and Antisociality as Risk Factors in the Severity and Persistence of Juvenile Firesetting

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Volume: 45 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2006 Pages: 1077-1084
Sherri McKay Ph.D.; Joanna Henderson Ph.D.; Giannetta Del Bove Ph.D.; Peter Marton Ph.D.; Diane Warling Ph.D.; Carol Root Ph.D.
Date Published
September 2006
8 pages
Using a sample of children and adolescents referred to an outpatient program for juveniles with firesetting as their primary problem behavior, this study assessed their fire interest and antisocial behavior in order to determine whether fire interest influenced firesetting after controlling for other behavioral problems.
The findings show that fire interest and antisocial behavior were significantly and positively associated. Moreover, variations in the level of fire interest were related to the prediction of firesetting severity at assessment and repeated firesetting at an 18-month followup. This prediction of firesetting and its severity based on fire interest/curiosity held regardless of the prediction of antisocial behavior. Although numerous protocols exist for the evaluation of the presence and severity of antisocial behavior, there is no comparable range of instruments for evaluating the presence and severity of fire-specific behaviors such as fire interest. The findings of this study suggest the independent value of such an assessment. Study participants were 192 male juvenile firesetters who ranged in age from 6 to 17. They had been referred to the Arson Prevention Program for Children, a specialized risk assessment and brief intervention program for juveniles who have set fires. Study data were obtained from the structured assessment protocol administered to all youth admitted to the program. The variables measured were firesetting severity, frequency, versatility, and age at onset; fire interest/curiosity; demographics; firesetting reoffending; antisocial behavior; and interrater reliability. 6 tables and 35 references