Children's Descriptions of Their Firesetting Incidents: Characteristics and Relationship to Recidivism

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The primary purpose of the study was to identify characteristics of children's firesetting incidents and examine the relationship of reported characteristics to psychopathology and firesetting history.


A sample of 95 firesetters were interviewed using the Fire Incident Analysis for Children (FIAC). Other child or parent measures were obtained reflecting behavioral correlates and risk factors for firesetting at initial assessment, and firesetting history measures at 2-year follow-up.


Access to incendiaries, lack of child remorse and parental consequences, and motives of curiosity and fun were commonly reported characteristics. Certain firesetting characteristics were associated with followup recidivism. Repeat versus single-incident firesetters at initial assessment were similar in firesetting characteristics but differed in measures of psychopathology and follow-up recidivism.


Children can report on personal and environmental details of their firesetting incidents, which may help to identify those children most at-risk for setting an additional fire. The findings bear implications for understanding firesetting risk-assessment measures, the role of specialized child interviews, and potential predictors of firesetting recidivism among children.

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