Non-criminalised fire use and self-concept: a preliminary grounded theory study

Robyn Lee*, Faye Horsley, Annette McKeown

*Corresponding author for this work

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Previous qualitative research by Horsley (2020) and Lee (2019) highlighted the importance of self-concept (SC) in understanding fire use. This study, therefore, aims to further investigate the relevance of SC in non-criminalised fire use, with a view towards informing early interventions for firesetting prevention.

In this preliminary study, ten participants engaging in extensive, non-criminalised fire use were interviewed about their fire-related experiences and how this relates to SC. This was analysed using techniques informed by the grounded theory.

Three core categories were identified: control, identity and self-esteem, which provide a preliminary framework for understanding how SC and non-criminalised fire use are inter-related. The core categories relate to the study aim because they are conceptualised as three elements of SC, which are strengthened through interactions with fire. The mechanisms through which the categories relate to fire use and SC are discussed.

Practical implications
Forensic implications are discussed regarding early intervention and prevention. The authors argue that knowledge of non-criminalised fire use could provide a valuable blueprint for healthy fire use and, thus, feed into treatment and intervention. Given that previous research has highlighted the importance of SC in relation to how and why people interact with fire, the authors suggest that it should be given greater emphasis in clinical work with those thought to be at risk of firesetting.

To date, firesetting research has focused primarily on criminalised acts, i.e. arson. This paper adopts a different approach and explores how and why people engage with fire in healthy and adaptive ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-206
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number3/4
Early online date11 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2023

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