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The Prevalence and Psychological Characteristics of Un-apprehended Deliberate Firesetters Living in the UK

Barrowcliffe, Emma (2017) The Prevalence and Psychological Characteristics of Un-apprehended Deliberate Firesetters Living in the UK. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:61256)

Language: English
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Deliberate firesetting has huge emotional, social, and economic impact. Traditionally, firesetting research has focussed on apprehended populations in prisons or secure psychiatric settings. In contrast, the literature relating to un-apprehended populations is extremely scarce; there has only been one study assessing un-apprehended firesetters living in the UK (Gannon & Barrowcliffe, 2012).

The purpose of this thesis is to fill the research gap, and evaluate the prevalence and psychological characteristics of un-apprehended deliberate firesetters living in the UK. Five studies were conducted: Study 1 examined the prevalence and characteristics of un-apprehended deliberate firesetters living in a high firesetting prevalent community in Kent. Study 2 specifically focussed on the psychological characteristics of un-apprehended deliberate firesetters. Studies 1 and 2 identified that firesetting tends to occur in adolescence rather than adulthood. However, the age of participants ranged from 18 to 72 years in Studies 1 and 2 and it was apparent that participants may be unable to fully recollect their adolescent behaviour. Therefore, in order to reduce recollection failures, younger participants (aged 18 to 23) were recruited for Study 3a with the aim of assessing the psychological characteristics of individuals who ignited fires in adolescence. Across Studies 1 to 3a there was an 11.5% to 25% prevalence rate of un-apprehended deliberate firesetters living in the UK and some common psychological characteristics were evident. For example, relative to non-firesetters, un-apprehended deliberate firesetters were male, exhibited higher fire interest, reported experimenting with fire before the age of 10, and having a family history of firesetting.

Study 3b compared the offence characteristics and psychological characteristics of un-apprehended firesetters (aged 18 to 23) reporting single firesetting incidences and multiple firesetting incidences. Few notable differences were found, however, relative to single episode firesetters, recidivistic firesetters engaged in more criminal behaviour such as underage drinking and robbery. Studies 1 to 3b utilised self report measures (e.g., questionnaires) to assess psychological characteristics. In contrast, an implicit measure, a lexical decision task, was employed in Study 4 to identify the existence of any of the five implicit theories hypothesised as being relevant to deliberate firesetting (e.g., Dangerous World, Normalisation of Violence, Fire is Fascinating or Exciting, Fire is a Powerful Tool, and Fire is Controllable; Ó Ciardha & Gannon, 2012).

Relative to non-firesetters, un-apprehended firesetters were significantly faster at identifying letter strings as words which supported the Dangerous World implicit theory but slower at classifying words supporting the Fire is Fascinating or Exciting implicit theory. This research is the first of its kind to evaluate the psychological characteristics and implicit theories of un-apprehended deliberate firesetters. The new data associated with the studies reported in this thesis offers an insight into the psychological characteristics of un-apprehended firesetters, and details future research directions with the aim of reducing the incidences and devastating consequences of deliberate firesetting.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Uncontrolled keywords: Firesetting, arson, adolescent, deliberate, un-apprehended, firesetter
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2017 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2022 18:30 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Barrowcliffe, Emma.

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