The hypothesis tested in this study was that the presence of enuresis and cruelty to animals in juvenile firesetters would be significantly related to recidivistic firesetting. This hypothesis was related to Yarnell's belief in an ego triad among juvenile firesetters, which linked the occurrence of enuresis, cruelty to animals and others, and firesetting. No relationship was found between groups for firesetting recidivism and enuresis. However, juveniles who were identified as being cruel to animals were more likely than those who were not cruel to animals to engage in recidivistic firesetting behaviors.
Each year, fires set by juveniles account for a large portion of fire-related public property damage and deaths. Fires set by children and adolescents are more likely than any other household disaster to result in death (National Fire Protection Association, 1999). In 1998, it was estimated that fires set by children and juveniles resulted in 6,215 American deaths, another 30,800 injuries, and billions of dollars in property damage (National Fire Protection Association, 1999). Despite the costs and impact of juvenile firesetting, it remains a little-studied area. The limited research that does exist is dominated by a psychodynamic perspective.
Examinations of the motivating forces behind juvenile firesetting have often relied on a psychoanalytic orientation (Kaufman, Heims, & Reiser, 1961; Lester, 1975; Rothstein, 1963; Yarnell, 1940). Those writings are largely based upon Freud's (1932) assertion that firesetting in youth is a regressive retreat to "primitive man's" desire to gain power and control over nature. Freud (1930) states: "In man's struggles to gain power over the tyranny of nature, his acquisition of power over fire was the most important. It is as if primitive man had had the impulse when he came in contact with fire, to gratify an infantile pleasure in respect of it and put it out with a stream of urine....Putting out fire by urinating... therefore represents a sexual act with a man, an enjoyment of masculine potency in homosexual rivalry. Whoever was the first to deny himself this pleasure and spare the fire was able to take it with him and break …