Juveniles are overrepresented among arson offenders, though previous research has been mixed in identifying key risk factors differentiating juvenile firesetters from youth who do not light unsanctioned fires. The current meta-analysis examined all published and available unpublished research over a 30-year period, examining risk and protective factors associated with youth firesetting. Control groups comprised youth living in the community, forensic samples, and clinic referred youth. Across 39 independent samples with 22,292 juveniles, fire specific variables yielded the strongest differentiation between firesetters and non-firesetters, particularly history of fire involvement and fire interest. Juvenile firesetters had significantly more extensive histories of problematic behaviours, experienced adverse familial events, elevated rates of emotional dysregulation, and greater prevalence of mental health disorders compared to youth not involved in firesetting. Protective factors were less often identified for firesetters compared to non-firesetters. The findings highlight juvenile firesetters often experience multiple problems, magnified by a history of interest and involvement in firesetting. Hence, interventions with juvenile firesetters need to target multiple problem areas while assisting youth to redirecting interests towards non-antisocial pursuits. Caution is noted in interpreting the findings, with significant heterogeneity identified for most effect sizes across studies.
Perks, D., Watt, B. D., Fritzon, K., & Doley, R. M. (2019). Juvenile firsetters as multiple problem youth with particular interests in fire: A meta-analysis. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 47, 189-203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2019.04.003