thumbnail of Exploring the child's world III; Fire for effect
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It is said that three basic reactions to sudden or recurrent trouble or problems or flight fight or submission. The child who fights when confronted by a threat to his comfortable feeling may establish a pattern of aggression. He is impatient intolerant and at times violent. He is inclined to act out his feelings rather than to examine and think them out so that his ultimate choice of response will be appropriate and acceptable. The child who flees from problems that threaten him may establish a pattern of refusing to face up to his problems. He may ignore things that go wrong. He may run to escape things that he cannot face as an adult he may turn to drink or narcotics. Divorce or suicide. We may look for him to be a bad risk in any responsible position. The third type of child is a submerged personality. He too readily submits and conforms. People are happy with him. But we do not know what is going on deep inside him. On the surface such a child pursues a pattern of avoidance flatness of character as
summarized as colorless inadequacy. Of course no one is composed of a single element. There are fragments of all these qualities in all children. Sometimes there is a prevalence of one or a combination of several basic reaction patterns to be found in any particular child. We do not seek to establish which reactions are better or worse in any given situation. What we rather look for is that a given child develop an adequate acceptable and appropriate method of recognizing problems facing them handling them with help if he needs it. We do not expect a 10 year old boy to handle a 12 year old problem the way a 15 year old adolescent would handle it. On the other hand we do look for a boy to handle his life situation and his life problems as they arise. In a way that somewhat conforms to what is expected by adults of one his age his size. Taking into account his state of health experiences training and degree of maturity. Here to interview a rather typical submissive
or passive child who gets angry and runs who resents and feels like inflicting injury or punishment is Father Duffy Professor of Sociology at Duquesne University. He speaks from the detention facilities of Allegheny County Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh. Father Duffy. Albert the boy about to be interviewed is a 10 year old white child who ran away from an orphanage shortly after an investigation was undertaken to determine the origin of a fire there. According to the record the boy had been previously in detention for setting fire in the basement of a neighbor's home. He denies these fire setting episodes throughout his history. Now to juvenile court. But in the interview he will admit that fire setting is not outside his range of interest nor experience. It also becomes apparent that this boy comes from a miserable home situation. His father died about five years ago. A rumor lives with the mother. He doesn't pretend to be husband to the boy's mother nor father
to her children. He is however a putative father of the three youngest. Albert hates him and would like to punish him. Albert has the attitude that the world is full of screaming females. He complains that his mother screams at him. Teachers scream at him and nurses in various institutions scream at him. He doesn't so much defend himself rather he fights back with the only weapon he has he criticizes them when the situation gets too hot he runs away. He sleeps in caves empty cars and garages. According to his story it is always a woman who thwarts him turns him over to the police or makes his life otherwise miserable. He doesn't like his own sisters but he does include his dog significantly as a member of the family with equal status. Since his mother is very affectionate with the baby in the family I asked Albert whether he wished he were a baby. He countered by saying I was a baby. I feel that Albert does wish that he were a baby now so that he would get the attention
love and affection and acceptance that he craves and apparently is being deprived of. I do not see him as a boy with insatiable needs or appetites but rather as a pathetic child who can tolerate a lot more than the world is offering him at this moment. The boy has no friends to speak of. He refers to some rather nebulous girlfriends but with his image of women. Such a negative one I doubt whether he would do more than drive girls away from himself by criticism sarcasm and venom. He has a sister also in the detention home at the moment. He barely speaks to her when he does it is relationship by attack in a safe environment. This can be a pleasant cheerful interested little boy with his hand out but none to take it. What's your name son Albert. And how old are you. Can work radio and school for you like it there. You know what seem to be the trouble. Well what do you dislike mostly teachers
I see. Weren't they nice to you or what. Gab too much to holler at you they got too much you hard you don't they ever encouraged you that any well don't they ever say you did well today or are you were trying or you were a good boy. No. Do you have different teachers or is it the same one for all the classes I have different teachers. You get along with the children in school. Yeah you have a special playmates. Now do you like the neighborhood where you live Albert. Did you live with your own family before you came here. Yes you can have a stepfather foster father you know you have regular parents. I just have a mother and dad. What's happened to him. When did he die. Heart attack when with I don't know. You die when you will you don't know him I knew him but I don't know
we died. He died when I was around four or five. You have brother who sisters four sisters two brothers you know dog and then the Mary Jones married and what about the next one billion you know army daughters 12. I'm tan and Louise is 14 Bobby too. And Don is the one and it is in here too. He's with you. Yeah Donahue to you count the dog and him with the family. How do you get along with him. OK. The Except for that for the girls you know like Ross the you know do you like other girls. Yeah they're my girlfriend. How many girlfriends would you say you forget your member. Are they big or little. These girls are saying myself.
What about the home does your mother work. No she gets a check that a relief check. I don't know she doesn't let me look at it you know. I How is it you came here this time hour when you my time me and ran away you ran away from home. Where did you go when you ran. I would read your street bridge to Liberty Avenue then over that other bridge linking back home my mother was up so I ran out of the half you didn't want to your mother to see you. Then what happened. Now I went to the garage where they parked trucks. There was a whole bunch of cases. I lay down on one of them. Then I went up a hill near Cliff Street and went to sleep for a little while I was in a house or in a car on a street or when you'll cave like when I came out and got up and was watching the train down the track for a while then a lady came in a car and she asked me what I was doing watching the trains. Then she called the police. They came and picked me up and I think you have brought you here. No they asked me what my name was and I wouldn't tell them. Then he took me to the police station and he took me here.
Were you running away from something that are we running to something good. Are we just running just running he is running. It wasn't to back home just for the guy to rooms there to watch this guy that rent their boards there oh you don't like him. Nor does he live with you or upstairs or downstairs or when he was in the same place. And this Matt he's nasty to you. You know I think she's some big guy. What does he do that makes you so angry at him. He hollers you know he doesn't approve of you in other words. No I said Have you ever run away before. A couple of times the family around 8:30 in the court. No police family. This time when the police found me they brought me here and I was into the Protestant home. Then I ran away from there. Now they are sending me to a boarding school. Are they I don't know which. What's it like out there. But I don't know which one they have in mind sound like came to boarding
school something like that. One friend I don't know that one. They're probably all boys there you go to school live in a big building sleep in a dormitory and they usually all eat together. You might want any boarding school if I can I think they're all about the same. You are private about talk. Well see the other boy that was outside one commune with you and I find that some boys don't talk too well in front of other people so they don't feel free. The other boy might laugh at something you say and you'd be embarrassed or you wouldn't tell me anything. Are other people going to hear this. Well it's up to you. Would you rather nobody heard. I don't care if you don't mind if I the people here know. What would you like to be when you grow up Albert. So many things to choose. I don't know. You have made up your mind yet you find it's pretty nice here though don't you. The nurses yelled you too much. You can find your teachers yell at you and the rumor yells at you. And now the nurses yell
at you. You know but you can't sleep all night long baby whining get up little boy you put something in one place and they come in and stay out the next day. Let me ask you this do you do any stealing. I don't remember I mean other than little things like cookies and while we still them. But you never went into anybody's house when you were invited. And I can't get in. Do you think did you get enough attention at home and people notice you and talk to you. Do do things that you like to do. Yeah. You know if you're jealous of the other children you know if you want they get better treatment than you do now. You get enough affection at home with that me. I mean do people love you enough. Possible but is it possible. Well it's possibly you mean possibly they do love your Possibly they don't. Possibly they do and they show a little bit of how they show
it. Well when I thought of it when I was little my father gave me a penny every day to go to school and buy something he did when I was wee little. What kind of a boy do you think you are Albert. Horrible truth. Disgraceful I really do. I was wondering what you thought about you so what do you think of yourself. Well I was more interested in what you thought of yourself. How come women don't want to tell people their age. Well I guess it's they like to appear younger than they are maybe you want to powder and lipstick and all that perfume and junk you know prove I approve of women using cosmetics. You know they come around thinking like anything the way they put it kind of proof you want. You probably bathe in it. What do you why do you think they do that. Why would they want to do that to last me. Do you think it might be because I want to be attractive to other people. Yeah knock him out of the air.
You don't like women you dislike women. Well I can when he Daniel I think on. But you found a lot of women who who shout at you and disapprove of you. Is that why you don't like any of them. Yeah. Do you find enough nice things happen around your home that make it make you like it there. So the new things to do. Games people play with. Got a rifle there is an air rifle or real barrel. I see you can put corks and I'm going to try to get one of them you know long straight pins. Are you going to try to get a street mug straight in from the park. You know. Then what. Well stick it through the court and shoot it see if you can get somebody you like to hit somebody with stuck through a cork and shot from a rifle. You would try to be who or whom would you like to hit anybody particularly a guy who lives rest of the room or one of the rooms in your house.
Thing makes a lot of noise. All you have to do is press the trigger. Papa I see. Let me ask you this Albert. What are you afraid of. Is there anything special that you're afraid of. Girl if you ever see one on television and anything else scare you. You're afraid the dark. Only when I think you were in me when I go to the back room I'm afraid there's going to be a ghost jumping through the window. You're afraid of these dead people when I can walk around again. Have you seen any walking around you know. You feel it if you did you would be afraid to sleep by the door. I'm afraid of that someone my walking even though it's locked. Did anything ever happen that would make you afraid. Anybody ever break into your house. Did anyone ever discuss this about people breaking into houses. This boy he told me about emotions about emotions.
I want to tell you about emotions he told me that this guy you know he always locked the door unbolt Yeah so the next day he woke up and his door was wide open so you called the cops and he came in to watch the door and the latch the double The doors are wide open. I see this boy told you about this. He told me you always seen a face in the window at night where the boy sleeps you know. Second floor. It would have to be a pretty tall person to to stand on the ground in people is what went on in the second floor and if he should the thing is wide cheeks I'm on fire and he had the one was probably saying this to scare you. He said he did almost every day. Not mostly every day sometimes. If this boy said this to scare you he succeeded. What else are you afraid of. Fraid of cock eyed people. You're free people whose whose eyes are crossed you. Do you think that their van or what.
No it's just when you look at you they look like you're going to kill you or something. Do they eat a baby in a department Vanderbeck Notre Dame doesn't. Does she think she don't have no hump on the back. You find that you dislike or are you afraid of or are you soo not the weather or what I am I correct when she looks at me. Maybe she's looking for more attention or affection. Maybe she want you pick her up. People who have physical defects often need more attention and affection and they get. I know how much you're interested in smiles were you ever involved in a fire and any time I did the Protestant orphanage there was a fire when you were there. It was only a little one to this right you know that when I woke up I see. Do you like animals. I diagnosed one that's right you have a dog at home. They can bite her. I see. And what would you like to be if you had to be something of course. And then what
you'd be able to run faster. What are you I'd be able to run fast. And then when would you ever get married. Possible. Let me ask you this Albert do you ever wish that you were a baby. I was a baby. I mean I should have asked you Do you ever wish you were a baby again are now. Yeah I could start a new life. I see. I wish there was a fairy that came down and grant me three wishes. If you had somebody a fairy come down gradually what would it be to have enough money to last me for the rest of my life. That's one to be a Christian and be a baby and if you were a baby then what would happen what would happen if you were a baby that doesn't happen now. Starting to like being a Christian. You're not a Christian. You know what are you now. Don't ask me I do a lot of bad things. What were some of the bad things you did. Where
I think that's only when I get real mean. I never heard you swear I'm not mad when you're around. And what else do you do that so that you'd like to be a baby and start over again. Steal little things I think. Mostly you know I'll tell you the biggest thing I store away at I belong to the Sunday school and I was downstairs getting my little sister a new was this little box of money. I didn't really steal it. I picked it up by accident it was all together with my papers and books and I didn't see it. When we got outside I found it and ban it. Now in other words you put your cow down and under the cup was his money box of long maturity and when you think you have to go to college stuff together but you feel now you should take it back. So you've done some swearing and some stealing and I also call my sister names what names you car fatso cops blubber and I think the U.S. is a well.
Name calling doesn't seem to be much of a sin but it can make people angry especially if what you what you call them is true and it hurts. You see it it bothers you to know you do it. You call names to people. What do people call you skinny bones that hurt you. How much do you weigh getting and cramped and how tall are you. You know about my feet. I don't think anybody will really call it skinny pants. I don't know losing weight. Did it hurt your feelings when people call you names too wary I call them names back when you give it back and I want to give you. I usually started calling me. What was the worst thing that ever happened to you. I don't know there was never anything bad. What was different scared you most of anything ever frighten you. What was the worst and that really happened.
I had a lot of scary things. She just gets Lasko and finally blamed on me. We do and do the steps. What we do what do they do about that. Nothing this guy lives there. He put it out. Well how does it feel to be accused of something you didn't do. Wolf I think you should you're socking me. I'm afraid I feel pretty badly need to. So I probably would get pretty angry at you defend myself and then accuse you of having lied I guess. Did your mother think that you set this fire. Let me ask you this. This boy's house caught on fire and they blamed it on you. And later you were in a Protestant orphanage you and I don't fire too. Was there any connection between the two fires and I don't know. I mean you you didn't set them on fire and set the one on fire. Which one was it. My boyfriend Tara. Not the one you you cute you're setting on fire. Yeah. And you really did do it then. Yep.
Always you want to be attached to me. So if you saw me do it. I didn't think it was great I bet. So you said there's no fire and kind of got out of control. How will we even think I was a.. I like to see blade. You do if you were not I should not you know enjoy the fires. What did you feel when you saw either the blazes that you set. And I'm watching you run away after you set the place on fire. Did you ever feel alone when you're if you're all alone as a nobody like you were once you knew you would feel that way before you came here you know. You're a fuel that nobody wanted you and you and how you feel now. Next time yeah it's time for us to get back to you tired.
Yeah I think it is no exaggeration to say that Albert looks as though he might be a Jr. model repeat arsonist. Many practitioners in this field are inclined to look for sex motivations in arsonists in many cases however as in this one I'm sure there is no evidence to suggest any kind of such motivation or disturbance. First of all it is doubtful as to whether there is a type of arsonist or an arsonist personality Lewis and Yarnell of the Columbia published a book entitled pathological fire setting. Back in one thousand fifty one. In this they said that the most of the arsonist they examined had some form of psychopathic personality disorder with or without psychosis. So we're seen as kids if remixed others as hysterics some of us compulsive neurotics a great number of course were alcoholics. Most of them were immature people who had simply and
impulsively acted out their angry feelings. One category these two writers overlook is a rather significant one that of the mentally retarded individual. One of the most common constant element present in most arson cases is a person who was angry hostile or furious because of some real or imaginary setback frustration or he may be suffering from a disturbing upset life situation. Actually the arsonist is more often passive than aggressive. He is rather furtive and unlikely to be assaultive in regard to people he is in thrall to or hypnotized by fire and it spells for him a tremendous powerful weapon for revenge fire as I remember it is one of the four elements and as such it has a variety of uses and functions in all cultures. In primitive times one who was allowed to sit around the fire circle felt and knew that he was accepted by that group of people he belonged
to be driven away from the fire meant rejection isolation and very often brought that from enemies or from wild animals. We have found that wherever there is a basic custom among primitive peoples we usually find ripples or residues in contemporary customs. Though it may not be easy to recognize them if being allowed to sit around a fire was a symbol or guarantee of acceptance among primitive people then we should find some residue or relic of this today. What about the neighborhood boys who used to perform a fire ritual or ceremony they would find an empty lot and then they would search for wood chips and they would obtain possibly steal or preferably steal some potatoes for baking in the fire. A boy who was disliked by the group had to skip. He was an outcast. He didn't belong there or even fight a campfire arranged at camps to bring strangers together. The middle classes had their outdoor fireplaces and
cookouts in the summer. And surely this is both ceremonial and ritual. The indoor fireplace has long been a symbol of status. There's also something awesome about cremation of one's loved ones. Some even find or at least question the possibility that the the pocket cigarette lighter is an implement of fire indicative of a modern fire ritual that often perpetuates smoking among people who should have given it up and possibly would have given it up except for the nervous mechanical ritual involved. There is considerable ritual surrounding the modern firefighting apparatus of the modern city and more so in the volunteer firefighters in rural areas. Candles again and incense seem to be part of a fire ritual from ancient times. Hearth and Home fireplace and home are almost synonymous and we all know the practice of leaving a lighted lantern in the window for the return of a loved one offered see a fire
setting is another can of worms. It surely would appear that apart from psychopathic conditions setting a fire seems to be the action of a person who is loaded with anger hostility and a determination to punish you are to exact vengeance. It may be a way of expressing this anger and hostility in a readily visible way which will not reveal the source of the vengeance. In some ways it could be regarded as a sort of playing God. For these reasons we would regard Albert the boy that we have just heard in the interview as a child in need of serious attention and help to enable him to work out his feelings of anger against his father and a reaction against his home and to help him work out these feelings of anger in some more acceptable way. Perhaps a breakthrough has been made in merely getting him to talk about his problem and seeing the connection between it his feelings his actions so that he will understand and appreciate and accept the idea that this is not the way to get along
in the world. You have been listening to exploring the child's world. A program in which the child speaks. Father Francis Duffy a professor of sociology at Duquesne University has conducted the interview with the child and to find the outlines of this world in the summary that followed. This has been a production of the radio service the Duquesne University in cooperation with UK in the sociology department. Technical director Fred McWilliams program director of the road to man. Listen again next week for another in the series exploring the child syndrome on. The preceding programme was made available to the station by the National Association of educational
broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Exploring the child's world III
Fire for effect
Producing Organization
Duquesne University
WDUQ (Radio station : Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-wh2dd89p).
Episode Description
Albert, 10, cannot bear to watch the fires he sets. what do you reply when this boy asks, "Did you ever feel all alone?"
Series Description
Interviews with delinquent and disturbed young people who are encouraged to discuss their experiences and express feelings. To protect individuals, each program is a re-creation of an actual interview using different names and places.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: Duquesne University
Producing Organization: WDUQ (Radio station : Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Speaker: Duffy, Francis
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 64-5-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:30
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Exploring the child's world III; Fire for effect,” 1964-02-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
MLA: “Exploring the child's world III; Fire for effect.” 1964-02-13. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <>.
APA: Exploring the child's world III; Fire for effect. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from