Youth misuse of fire: measuring the risk of firesetting behaviour using explicit and implicit methods

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Dadswell, Kara ORCID: 0000-0003-3192-7960, Sambol, Stjepan ORCID: 0000-0002-1969-8192, Zervos, Maxim, Harris, Matthew and Ball, Michelle ORCID: 0000-0002-4056-6178 (2023) Youth misuse of fire: measuring the risk of firesetting behaviour using explicit and implicit methods. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. ISSN 0882-2689


Accelerated shifts in global climate have increased the threat from intentionally lit fires, especially within wildfire prone communities. A considerable proportion of intentionally lit fires are set by adolescents with high levels of fire interest. A persistent issue within the literature is difficulty with reliably assessing fire interest, as existing self-report measures are highly susceptible to censored responses. The current study investigated whether fire interest could be effectively measured using attentional bias tasks. The sample consisted of 86 participants (10–17 years; M = 13.65, SD = 1.81) allocated into three firesetter classifications: minor firesetter (n = 24), serious firesetter (n = 28), and non-firesetter (n = 34). All participants completed a series of questionnaires and two modified Stroop tasks aimed at measuring implicit fire interest. The findings showed no association between explicit and implicit measures of fire interest. However, serious firesetters scored significantly higher than other firesetter classifications on both explicit and implicit measures. Additionally, both explicit fire interest and performance on the Lexical Fire-Stroop emerged as significant predictors of firesetting behaviour. Collectively, these results illustrate the Stroop paradigm may be an effective tool to measure implicit fire interest within a community sample, and potential improvements are discussed. The current study detected a surprisingly high frequency of self-reported firesetters within a community sample and significant incongruency between parental and child reported firesetting behaviour, demonstrating the importance of continued research in this area.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1007/s10862-023-10057-5
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords fire misuse, youth behavior, fire setting behavior, intentionally lit fires, global climate
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