Understanding Firesetting and Animal Cruelty: Risk Fctors and Consequences

Kimberly Becker, University of Arizona
Jeffrey Stuewig, Arizona State University
Veronica M. Herrera, University of Arizona
Laura McCloskey, Harvard School of Public Health

This study investigates familial and behavioral corelates of childhood firesetting and animal cruelty and the relationship of these behaviors to later delinquency. In a sample of battered and nonbattered women and children, we identified children who exhibited firesetting (n=32) and animal cruelty (n=21) behaviors. We examined the link between family violence background and firesetting. We found that 12% of the children exposed to family violence engaged in firesetting, compared to 5% of comparison group children. Similar rates were found for animal cruelty behaviors. We will present additional information regarding the famiial correlates of firesetting and animal crueltly. Furthermore, we will discuss the relationship between these behaviors and other childhood problems, such as conduct disorder, attention deficit disorder, and depression. Finally, we will examine whether childhood firesetting and animal cruelty were risk factors for juvenile delinquency, as measured by self-reported and court-documented offenses ten years later.

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Updated 05/20/2006