A Queensland study of young arsonists found one in five had lit 10 or more fires.

Young arsonists are often serial offenders who have lit at least 10 fires, a Queensland study has found.

The Bond University study of 274 people under 18 years old found one in five had committed 10 or more acts of arson, and 19 per cent of them said they would likely continue lighting more.

Bond University assistant psychology professor Dr Bruce Watt says he was surprised by the large number of fires the serial offenders lit.

“We found that of those who lit multiple fires, there was a predisposition to be involved in other anti-social behaviours such as fights, lying and stealing,” he said.

The majority said they lit fires for fun or out of boredom while 13 per cent said they did it out of curiosity and 10 per cent because their friends were doing it.

Dr Watt said a small number of them had set buildings on fire while most targeted vegetation and outdoor objects.

In Queensland, of the 349 offenders proceeded against for arson in 2011-12, 133 were children aged 16 and under.

Dr Watt said children under 16 accounted for 38 per cent of arson attacks despite making up only 11 per cent of the state’s population.

The research, conducted with the Australian Centre for Arson Research and Treatment and the Child and Youth Forensic Outreach Service, is one of the largest undertaken into youth arson.

Results of the work have been published in a journal by The British Psychological Society.