The positive aspects of fire use: a grounded theory of the experiences of non-criminalised fire users

Faye K. Horsley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose
Psychological research on fire has focussed primarily on its misuse in the form of arson and firesetting, which reflects a tradition in forensic psychology for focussing on risk and pathological behaviour. However, this is inconsistent with the strengths-based approach because it fails to account for positive aspects of fire and law-abiding/ healthy interactions with fire. This study aims to explore the psychology of non-criminalised forms of fire use. It is predicated on a novel, dimensional, conceptualisation of fire-related behaviour – the continuum of fire use (CoFU; Horsley, 2020, 2021).

Design/methodology/approach
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 adults who use fire in law-abiding forms. Data were analysed using techniques informed by grounded theory. Steps were taken to ensure reliability and validity, including a Cohen’s Kappa calculation, which indicated an agreement level of 0.8 between two raters.

Findings
Four core themes were identified relating to the benefits of fire on psychological well-being, namely, immediate gratification; hope and empowerment; self-concept and emotional security.

Research limitations/implications
Drawing on findings from this study, a theoretical framework of the psychology of non-criminalised fire use is presented. This is a preliminary conceptualisation and more work is needed to address this under-researched topic.

Practical implications
The findings can inform the work of forensic practitioners. They highlight the importance of considering service users' positive interactions with fire, alongside maladaptive/ criminal use. This has implications for the assessment of fire setters, as well as rehabilitative approaches.

Social implications
It is argued in this paper that a society-wide approach is key to firesetting reduction. More specifically, findings can inform the development and refinement of early intervention programmes, which focus on supporting young people to develop a healthy relationship with fire.

Originality/value
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to explore the psychology of non-criminalised forms of fire use. It is predicated on a novel, dimensional, conceptualisation of fire-related behaviour – the continuum of fire use (CoFU; Horsley, 2020, 2021a, 2021b).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-331
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Forensic Practice
Volume23
Issue number4
Early online date10 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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