Fire Messaging: a qualitative exploration of how adults teach children about fire

Faye Horsley*, Emily Birrell, Grace Gouldthorp, Danisha Kohli, Faith McLackland, Ellie Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research indicates that children’s early experience of fire can influence what and how they learn about fire. In turn, early fire-learning can influence how people come to use it later in life, including whether they engage in maladaptive use, i.e. firesetting. Little is known about the underlying mechanisms of fire-learning, which was the basis for this study. The research question was: ‘how do adults educate children about fire in the UK/ Ireland’? Design/methodology/approach (limit 100 words) Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 fire-educators who had regular contact with children. Data were analysed using abbreviated Grounded Theory. Steps were taken to ensure reliability and validity, including a Cohen’s Kappa calculation, indicating an agreement level of .9 between two raters. Findings (limit 100 words) Four core themes were identified: 1) The Fire Narrative; 2) Enabling Growth; 3) Risk Management, and; 4) Communication, from which the Fire-Learning Process Model (F-LPM) was formed. Practical implications (limit 100 words) The main limitation is the nature of our sample, in that it was diverse and self-selecting. The findings are discussed, including how they offer support for Social Learning Theory (SLT) perspectives on fire-learning. Research limitations/implications (limit 100 words) The main limitation is the nature of our sample, in that it was diverse and self-selecting. Social implications (limit 100 words) The social construction of fire (i.e. the way fire is viewed by society as a whole in the UK/ Ireland) is discussed in depth, and cultural variability is highlighted. Suggestions are made for how the societal view of fire and, consequently, how we convey this to young people, could be better balanced. Originality/value (limit 100 words) First study in the UK/ Ireland to consider how adults educate young people about fire from a concurrent perspective. This is important given that research indicates early experiences of fire can impact how people later go on to use it (including maladaptive use in the form of firesetting).

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