Gender differences amongst adult arsonists at psychiatric assessment

Geoff Dickens*, Philip Sugarman, Farooq Ahmad, Simon Edgar, Kristina Hofberg, Sidharta Tewari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Reports of gender differences amongst arsonists at psychiatric assessment are not uncommon, however some are based on relatively small samples. A new retrospective study highlighting gender differences could help to confirm or refute the current state of knowledge. The aim of the current study was to examine gender differences amongst a sample of 167 adult arsonists (129 males and 38 females). Information was collected from clinical records on sociodemographic, family background and childhood factors; adult adjustment; fire setting history; motives; features of pyromania and other offending, from the case notes of a group of arsonists referred to the West Midlands Psychiatry Service over a 24-year period. Female arsonists were older than males and more likely to have a psychiatric diagnosis. Women more frequently had a history of sexual abuse, while men had a more varied criminal background and more substance abuse problems. Our findings largely support previous research, and are discussed in this context, whilst also bringing attention to a more recently developed theory (Action System Model). Significant gender differences amongst arsonists indicates that different emphases in the treatment of male and female arsonists may be advisable, though a reliable evidence base for treatment has yet to be established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-238
Number of pages6
JournalMedicine, Science and the Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


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