Dangerousness in firesetters: A survey of psychiatrists' views

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Aims and method: The assessment of the future dangerousness of firesetters is problematical but psychiatrists may be requested to perform assessment of arsonists for the courts. We surveyed the views of psychiatrists and others (n=54) on how 11 candidate historical variables might contribute to future dangerousness. Results: Hierarchical cluster analysis indicated that variables fell into three groups related to level of perceived dangerousness. Apparent intention to endanger life and setting fire to an occupied building were the items thought by psychiatrists to most indicate highest future dangerousness. Having previously set fires that caused extensive damage, failure to extinguish previous fires or alert the authorities were perceived as indicating moderate future dangerousness. Clinical implications: The study adds to what is known about how psychiatrists formulate assessments of future dangerousness.




Sugarman, P., & Dickens, G. (2009). Dangerousness in firesetters: A survey of psychiatrists’ views. Psychiatric Bulletin, 33(3), 99–101. https://doi.org/10.1192/pb.bp.108.019570

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