Kelly, J., Goodwill, A.M., Keene, N., & Thrift, S (2009). A retrospective study of historical risk factors for pathological arson in adults with mild learning disabilities. British Journal of Forensic Practice, 11, 17-23.
| Link to article in British Journal of Forensic Practice |
Abstract This pilot study investigated three historical risk factors for pathological arson identified in Jackson’s Only Viable Option theory (Jackson, 1994), which views the act as an adaptive response to circumstances that are difficult to tolerate and which the individual does not have the necessary skills to resolve by appropriate means. Twenty men with mild learning disabilities were recruited from inpatient forensic services. It was hypothesised that there would be a greater incidence of risk factors among individuals with an index offence of arson than those without, and that risk factors would significantly predict an index offence of arson. Significant differences were found between the groups for perceived inability to effect social change and childhood experiences of fire, but not for the family problems under investigation. However, the sample size was too small to draw reliable conclusions on the predictive ability of the risk factors. The findings suggest that perceived inability to effect social change and childhood experiences of fire are risk factors characteristic of men with learning disabilities who have set fires, lending support to elements of Jackson’s theory and providing opportunities to develop evidence-based practice. However, the underlying causes of these risk-factor characteristics remain unclear. It is hoped that the present study will help inform the choice of risk factors under investigation and improve the design of a larger study