Exploring explicit and implicit correlates of early anti-social fire exposure and everyday fire use in adulthood

Faye Kathryn Horsley*, Trevor Keith James, Natasha Baker, Rachel Broughton, Xanthe Hampton, Amy Knight, Imogen Langford, Ellie Pomfrey, Laura Unsworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This study aims to explore whether early anti-social fire exposure (ASFE) is associated with how adults engage with fire and how they view fire.

An opportunistic sample (N = 326) was recruited. Participants completed an online survey exploring ASFE, fire use, strength of fire-beliefs and interest in/attitudes supportive of fire. Additionally, implicit fire bias was measured using the affect misattribution procedure (AMP).

Participants with ASFE engaged with more criminalised fire use as adults. They also scored higher on fire interest and general fire beliefs and showed an implicit dislike of fire stimuli, compared to non-exposed participants (although differences in fire use were not statistically significant when gender was accounted for). Males also had higher levels of fire interest, held stronger fire related beliefs and were more likely to have been exposed to ASFE during childhood. However, there were no gender differences in fire use or on the implicit task.

Research limitations/implications
The findings have practical application, namely in relation to early intervention and rehabilitative approaches. However, a limitation is that participants’ cultural background were not accounted for. Additionally, we advise caution in interpreting the implicit results and call for further research.

Social implications
The need for better early interventions for young people is highlighted, along with better screening which, currently, is unstandardised and inconsistent across the country (Foster, 2020). This demands a community-engagement approach.

This is the first study to explore type of early exposure to fire. It is also the first to adopt the AMP as a measure of implicit fire-bias.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-182
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number3
Early online date22 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2022


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