Experts argue that a large number of family problems is one of the strongest predictors of recidivism among juveniles who commit arson. In one study conducted on hospitalized firesetters, Dr. David Kolko (Kolko and Kazdin, 1986, 49), from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, found “greater delinquency, aggressiveness, and hyperactivity compared to a control group…these children were less socially skilled and more aggressive…many of the children presented with learning disabilities.”
In clinical studies, it was also found by Cole (et al., 1986, ix) that significant parental and family problems exist in the home environment of firesetters. In studies conducted on adolescents who had been found guilty of committing arson, many of them more than once, Cole (et al., 1986, ix) found the parents of these children as “significantly lower in affection, depressed, unavailable, and lacking in supervision and parenting skills…also a correlation between abuse, chronic neglect, and firesetting…in case of abuse and/or neglect, there was a fivefold increase of recidivism.”
Bishop (et al., 1996, 171) also found that many children are motivated to commit arson as a measure of stress release, as theorized in the introduction of this research. In clinical studies, Bishop (et al., 1996, 173) found that many children who commit arson are “responding to major life changes such as separation and divorce, remarriage, or death of a family member.” Children have also been found to commit arson as a sexual-stressor release mechanism, either from being sexually abused or because of lack of healthy sexual development of their own.
In one novel by Patricia Willis entitled The Barn Burner, we are presented with the story of a young boy who has been adopted into a family. He is thought to be guilty of setting a number of fires in the local vicinity. The book’s young antagonist mirrors the psychological profile of the adole...
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