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Stressful Life Events, Trauma Symptoms, and Firesetting Behaviors Among 8-Year-Olds: Findings from the Longscan Studies

7 December 2007


Juvenile firesetting behavior has been a widespread problem with immense costs to lives and property in the United States. The relationships between life events, trauma symptoms, and firesetting behaviors among children have not been sufficiently studied. In this study, data from the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect , (LONGS CAN) was used to examine differences between a group of 30 8-year-old children with histories of setting fires (20 males and 10 females) and 30 8-year-old children without a history of setting fires. Firesetters had a greater accumulation of recent stressful life events, as measured by the Children's Life Events Scale, compared to nonfiresetters. Firesetters were also more likely to have had a history of sexual abuse, emotional neglect, educational neglect, lack of supervision, family member arrests, physical assault, and parental and personal counseling compared to nonfiresetters. Trauma symptoms did not differentiate fires etters from nonfiresetters nor did they mediate the relationship between total recent stressful life events and juvenile firesetting behaviors. Therefore, stressful events should be addressed in the treatment of juvenile firesetting. In addition, it is possible that prevention efforts aimed at children who are most at risk for accumulated stress may help reduce juvenile firesetting.


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