School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Brian Kelley


Fire Misuse, Fire Safety Education, Children, Intervention




A child referred for an assessment following fire misuse (e.g., setting a fire intentionally) triggers an intervention strategist who constructs a program that almost universally includes fire safety education (FSE). While FSE media tailored by age and grade is available from the U.S. Federal Government, most youth fire misuse intervention educational programming differentiates children by age. However, program designers rarely consider gender, racial differences, and socioeconomic factors during education design and delivery. Limited research demonstrates efficacious FSE. However, since almost no FSE accounts for differences beyond age, no empirical evidence exists examining its efficacy by demographic or socioeconomic differences. Using archival data of juvenile fire misusers collected over the past 20 years, the investigator examined operationalized components of an FSE program. Quantitative results were inconclusive. However, qualitative analysis revealed predominantly masculine language used in the FSE despite nearly 17% of the children in this study being female. Analysis showed FSE worksheets and handouts were grade and age-appropriate. However, instructions for educators and parents and lesson plans were scored at about a 6th-grade level. This paper is the first known research to operationalize dimensions of fire safety education to study their impact on reducing recidivism rates. Qualitative methods found differences between children who completed FSE and those who did not after returning to the program. Children who did not complete FSE were found to contain more than ten times the number of emotional, behavioral, family-related, and school-related thematic problems as children who completed FSE. I discuss implications for further research.

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