Children and Arson: America’s Middle Class Nightmare by Wayne S. Wooden, Martha Lou Berkey (auth.)

By Wayne S. Wooden, Martha Lou Berkey (auth.)

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A failure to rectify this negative situation, coupled with the youngster's positive reinforcement from setting fires, will create a snowball effect for the youngster. As we have seen, the more serious and recidivist firesetters, as well as the older juveniles, begin to manifest a greater number of severe behavioral problems. When this happens, their fire setting behavior moves them out of the "crying-for-help" category into either the "delinquent" or the "severely disturbed" category. With the younger "crying-for-help" firesetters, the firesetting patterns have not yet reached these critical stages, although, once again, the fires they set may have disastrous results.

And not all of the controls were fire-free. As in Dr. Folkman's study, mentioned before, some of the controls (18 percent), according to their parents, had sometimes played with fire against their parents' wishes, although none of these youngsters had frequently played with fire against their parents' wishes. By contrast, all of the firesetters' group had been in trouble with the authorities, if not for their fire setting, then for some other problem. Furthermore, the firesetters were viewed by their parents as both more frequently playing with fire (12 percent) and sometimes playing with fire (37 percent).

14 These difficulties with school, moreover, may be the culmination of a number of causes other than intellectual impairment. Environmental stress, anxiety, and lack of parental attention may result in learning difficulties. Whatever the reason, young firesetters tend to do poorly in school, tend to dislike the educational environment, and, as adolescent delinquents, tend to take out their frustrations on the school itself through their incendiary acts. Another important characteristic that distinguished between our two sample groups was the parents' answers about whether their child was easily led by peers.

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