Child fatalities in Scottish house fires 1980-1990: a case of child neglect?

Child Abuse Negl. 1995 Jul;19(7):865-73. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(95)00050-i.


This paper considers 168 child (< 17 years) fatalities killed in house fires in Scotland. Data were obtained from the records retained by the procurators fiscal, as part of a survey into all Scottish fire fatalities during the period 1980 to 1990. Although these fires were generally perceived as being tragic "accidents," we conclude that they were largely a direct result of the activities of adults in the home. We analyze this in terms of contemporaneous supervision and the child-care environment. The role of alcohol in domestic fires is particularly important. Behavioral patterns of parents and caregivers are seen to be placing children in a very high risk category and fatality rate could be significantly reduced if behavior was modified to reduce the risk. Whether these considerations imply "neglect" is partly a question of definition. It is important to recognize that the fire safety message could usefully be integrated within a more general child care or family welfare scheme. Front line professionals in these fields are ideally placed to convey this message and to make a contribution towards reducing the risk of children being killed or injured in fire.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / mortality
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control
  • Burns / mortality*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child Abuse / mortality*
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child Welfare / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fires / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Fires / statistics & numerical data*
  • Firesetting Behavior / mortality
  • Firesetting Behavior / prevention & control
  • Firesetting Behavior / psychology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland / epidemiology