A- IntroductionWhen our ancestors first discovered fire it was a hallmark of mankind civilization because of the uses it facilitated for man. Fire has since been always useful when it is contained and controlled for a useful purpose. However, soon the danger of fire was identified when it unintentionally and sometimes accidentally destroyed property or surroundings. In addition to being a useful tool fire is also an easy weapon to acquire and use.
Yet what differentiates a useful form of fire from one that is dangerous and destructive is the size. A small fire in the fireplace of a sitting room is a useful desirable one while a bush fire in a forest is a dangerous destructive one.Although arsons can be committed by adults, ‘juvenile fire setters’, i.e. children and adolescents seem to be the most vulnerable group and can be dangerous and difficult to control as their abnormal behaviour could develop into a crime if appropriate intervention is not effected as early as possible. (Slavkin and Fineman, 2000).
In this paper ‘juvenile firesetters’ will be reviewed under the following sections:A Individual CharacteristicsB Typology of Juvenile FiresettersC Appropriate InterventionE- ConclusionsB- Individual CharacteristicsAggressionSlavkin points out the importance of characteristics by citing the study of Richter et al, which emphasises the individual characteristics and the environmental ones.“Previous classifications of juvenile firesetters have been based on individual characteristics (e.g.
, personal motives, physical problems, interpersonal ineffectiveness/skills deficits, and covert antisocial behavior excesses) as well as environmental characteristics (e.g., limited supervision and monitoring, parental distance and uninvolvement, parental pathology and limitations, and presence of crisis or trauma.) (Kolko & Kazdin, 1992). An adequate understanding of juvenile firesetting is contingent upon the simultaneous examination of individual and environmental factors (Barnett, Richter, Sigmund, & Spitzer, 1997).” (Slavkin, 2000)Aggression, which is one of the most important characteristics in firesetters, becomes a problem that needs the attention of professionals when it becomes behaviour of non-compliance. According to Achenbach (1966) children and adolescents who internalize emotions develop somatic symptoms and depression while those who externalize emotions develop aggression or acting against others such as firesetting.
(Slavkin, 2000)In an empirical study conducted at Oak Ridge (G. T. Harris 6r Rice, 1984), the social competence of 13 fire setters and 13 other offenders matched for age and IQ was compared.
Their findings were reported as follows:“The second largest group (28%), which we called unassertives, were men who had the best histories prior to the fire that had brought them to our institution and the lowest rates of all kinds of recidivism. They had little history of aggression as children or adults, had little criminal activity in their backgrounds, had the best family backgrounds, were more intelligent, and had better employment histories. They were the least assertive (they resembled the individuals high in over controlled hostility described in chapter 4), and they were most likely of all the clusters to have set their fires for anger or revenge.” (Here write the name of the author and year of your source titled ‘6 Fire Setters)DelinquencyDelinquency is another characteristic studied for its relation to firesetting. It seems that delinquency is more related to behaviours such as gambling, drinking, smoking, shoplifting, vandalism etc., but not related to firesetting. (Stvink, 2000)Externalization of EmotionsIn contrast to the juvenile adolescents who are characterized by internalized emotions who develop psychological problems, the assertive juveniles express anger and feelings of resentments manifested in their aggressiveness and the pathological act of firesetting.
The maladaptive behaviours are, of course, not related to adolescence stage but rather to some other influences whether from parents or the environment. This is further confirmed by studies cited by Stvink, (2000)“Results indicate that firesetters tend to have conduct problems, such as disobedience and aggressiveness. It is thought that these maladaptive behaviors are juvenile firesetters’ primary method for expressing feelings (Forehand et al., 1991; Thomas ; Grimes, 1994). Sakheim, Vidgor, Gordon, and Helprin (1985) also found that firesetters had feelings of anger and resentment over parental rejection, and that such feelings largely were expressed covertly through the use of fire. Externalization of emotions for firesetters is accomplished through the use of fire (Sakheim ; Osborn, 1999; Thomas ; Grimes, 1994).
”Moreover, in a study carried out in a correction institution (Oak Ridge), where firesetters were compared to other admitted to the institution for other reasons, it was confirmed that “mentally disordered fire setters present a clinical picture quite different from that of other mentally disordered offenders.” While the other mentally disordered were characterized by a general criminal style, the firesetters were generally passive and socially isolated. (……….)Environmental IssuesThe juvenile problem behaviours of firesetters are understood by looking at their experiences and the environment in which those experiences were acquired. Jessor and Jessor (1977, 1984) (as in Slavkin, 2000) Social experiences combined with the individual characteristics of a child later form his behaviour and of course any maladaptive ones. It is also this combination that facilitate appropriate intervention.“Kolko and Kazdin (1994) have asserted that parent and family characteristics play a role in patterns of firesetting.
Moderate firesetting has been associated with limited family sociability, whereas recidivism has been associated with lax discipline, family conflict, limited parental acceptance, and degree of family affiliation (Kolko ; Kazdin, 1994). Limited parental supervision and monitoring, cues and learning experiences with fire, parental distance and uninvolvement, and parental pathology have been identified as predictors of juvenile firesetting (Kolko ; Kazdin, 1985, 1986, 1992).” (Slavkin, and Fineman, 2000)C- Typology of Juvenile FiresettersThe different types of firesetters for the purpose of this paper, which is meant to be, can be summarized by the following table quoted from (Stvink, 2000)Table One – Typology of FiresettersType of FiresetterCharacteristics1. Curiosity TypeYounger children who do not understand consequences of their behavior. Desire is to watch the flame. Hyperactivity or attention deficit may be present. No intent to cause harm. Traditional early childhood diagnosis.
2. Accidental TypeUsually involves children under 11 years of age. Teenagers playing scientist. The fire results from no destructive motive to create fire.
3. The “Cry for Help” TypeIncludes those offenders who consciously or subconsciously wish to bring attention to an interpersonal dysfunction (depression) to an interpersonal dysfunction (abuse at home, vicarious observation of parental conflict). Not meant to harm people. Acceptable prognosis for treatment. Firefighter who sets fires or adult/juvenile “would be hero types” – seeking the attention of peers or the community in order to discover or help put out fires they start. Traditional early childhood diagnosis for abused children.
4. Delinquent TypeIncludes the fire for profit type and the cover another crime type. Interest in vandalism and hate crimes is noteworthy.
As juveniles, this type shows little empathy for others. Shows little conscious. Juvenile types rarely harm others with fire. Significant property damage is common. As adults, significant percentage harm others. Firesetting behavior is more easily extinguished than other personality and behavior problems that usually accompany the firesetting.5. Severely Disturbed TypeIncludes those juveniles who seek to harm themselves, paranoid, and psychotic types, for which the fixation of fire may be a major factor in the development of a mental disorder.
Sensory aspects of the fire are sufficiently reinforcing to cause fires to be frequently set. Pyromaniac is a sub-type – sensory reinforcement is often powerful enough for significant harm to occur. Prognosis is guarded with this group.6. Cognitively Impaired TypeIncludes the retarded and the organically impaired types. Tends to avoid intention harm, lack acceptable judgment. Significant property damage is common. Prognistically, they are acceptable therapy candidates.
Also included in this group are persons with severe learning disabilities, those affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, or by drugs taken by their mother during pregnancy.7. Sociocultural TypeIncludes the uncontrolled mass hysteria type, the attention to cause type, the religious type, and the satanic type. Arsonists who set fires primarily for the support they get for doing so by groups within their communities. Those who may set fires in the midst of civil unrest, and are either enraged and enticed by the activity of others and follow suit, or set fires with deliberation in order to call attention to the righteousness of their cause.
Frequently lose control and harm others. Most are amenable to treatment.Note.
From “A Model for the Qualitative Analysis of Child and Adult Fire Deviant Behavior,” by K. Fineman, 1995, American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 13, p. 34.
Adapted with permission of the author.D- Appropriate InterventionThere are a number of approaches to the treatment of the maladaptive behaviour of firesetters. In North America the most common approaches are two: one effected by community members and thus called the ‘community approach’ implemented by fire departments and youth courts; while the other approach necessitates admission to hospital or a child welfare institution. (DeSalvatore, 2002; as in Maccardle, 2001). In New Zealand the intervention is carried by the fire department which operates a youth intervention programme. While these are the formal approaches, there are many informal ones assigned as roles to the different people around the child, e.g.
parents, teachers etc. Generally it seems that intervention is educational. In the literature there are a number of intervention suggestions which are related to the typology of firesetters.E- ConclusionsIt is apparent that firesetters are mainly unfortunate people who experienced problematic childhood up to the adolescent stage. An examination of the characteristics of individuals and the environment in which they lived always lead a considerably accurate diagnosis of the maladaptive behaviour and more importantly it is the key to the appropriate intervention.REFERENCES1. Fire Setters (This is one of your sources, add the details and also add its reference in the body.
2. Ian Lambie , Shane McCardle , Ray Coleman -Where there’s smoke there’s fire: firesetting behaviour in children and adolescents – New Zealand Journal of Psychology. Volume: 31. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 2002. Page Number: 73+.3.
Slavkin, Michael L. ; Fineman, Kenneth (2000) – What Every Professional Who Works With Adolescents Needs To Know About Firesetters – Adolescence. Volume: 35. Issue: 140. Publication Year: 2000.
Page Number: 7594. Slavkin, Michael Lawrence (2000) -Juvenile Firesetters: An Exploratory Analysis – Submitted to the faculty of the School of Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree: Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology Indiana University;