Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology


The Jesness Inventory and several demographic variables were evaluated using linear discriminant analysis to explore the major question: Can the Jesness Inventory scales accurately discriminate and then classify firesetters and non-firesetters? Psychiatric hospital records of children ages 8-18 were reviewed at two hospitals from August 1983 to October 1985. Twenty-five patients who had engaged in firesetting behavior and a comparison group of fifty-one hospitalized non-firesetting children who had taken the Jesness Inventory during their hospitalization were selected for the study. Three linear discriminant analyses were run. The major finding was that the Jesness Inventory was unable to satisfactorily classify firesetters from non-firesetters. This discriminant function classified 52% of the non-firesetters and 70% of the firesetters correctly, for a total of 58% correct. This result is only slightly higher than what would be predicted by chance. A second discriminant analysis, which combined the demographic variables with the Jesness Inventory scales, was able to classify 71% of the non-firesetters and 70% of the firesetters accurately for a total of 71% correct classifications. Firesetters were discriminated from non-firesetters by the variables age, sex, adoption, and the Jesness Inventory scales: Immaturity, Withdrawal, and Autism. Firesetters tended to be younger in age, male, adopted, and scored higher on the Immaturity and Withdrawal scales. The third discriminant function used only the demographics as predictor variables and found that 86% of the non-firesetters and 80% of the firesetters were classified accurately, for a total of 84% correct classifications. Again age, sex, and adoption history entered the equation. These findings tend to cast doubt on the ability of the Jesness Inventory to discriminate and classify children who set fires, and continue to support other studies that have found child self-report instruments unable to discriminate firesetters from comparison groups.

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