Getting Inked: Tattoos and College Students.

  • Manuel L
  • Sheehan E
ISSN: 0146-3934
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This study explores whether college students with tatoos or piercings demonstrate extreme personalities and behaviors. Participants were 46 men and 164 women (mean=20.0 years). Questions assessed participants' attitudes toward tattooing, presence of a tattoo, and participation in risk taking behaviors. Participants completed the Personality Research Form (PRF)Form E (Jackson, 1984). Those with tattoos scored higher in autonomy (mean=9.96) than those without tattoos (mean=5.55). Women with tattoos scored higher on impulsivity (p=.04). Men with piercings were significantly higher on exhibitionism (p= .02) and sentience (p=.04), and significantly lower on harm avoidance (p= .05). Women with piercings were significantly higher on social recognition (p=.04). Those with and without tatoos reported similar attitudes toward tattoos and levels of risk taking behavior. ********** Tattooing had a long history even prior to the discovery of a tattooed man embedded in ice, a find that suggested the practice occurred circa 3300 B.C. (Rademackers & Schoenthal, 1992). Prior to that discovery, it was thought that tattooing was primarily an ancient Egyptian practice dating from circa 2000 B.C. (Nadler, 1983). Tattooing was brought to the New World in 1769 by sailors returning from voyages to the South Pacific (Post, 1968; Sanders, 1991). Although the association with sailors has never completely dissipated (Armstrong, Murphy, Sallee & Watson, 2000; Mallon & Russell, 1999; Sanders, 1991; Yamamoto, Seeman, & Boyd, 1963), the practice of tattooing became more widespread and occasionally socially acceptable in the Western world after that time (Sanders, 1991). Tattooing enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the late 19th Century in England, and in the United States in the 1920s (Sanders, 1991). It later began to be relegated to the socially marginal (Armstrong, 1991; Fox, 1976; Post, 1968; Sanders, 1991). Piercing has almost as long a history as tattooing, having been practiced by Egyptian pharaohs, Mayans, and Roman centurions (Armstrong, 1996). Body piercing is sometimes studied along with tattooing, partly because people with tattoos often have piercings (Buhrich, 1983; Frederick & Bradley, 2000). Piercing, particularly in adolescents, is usually done in tattoo parlors (Armstrong, 1996) or is self-inflicted (Martin, 1997). For women, ear piercing has come to be viewed as a mainstream practice but piercing eyebrows, nose, cheeks, or other areas appears to symbolize one's disaffection from society, much like tattooing (Sanders, 1988). Body piercing other than the earlobe has been associated with the gay subculture (Buhrich, 1983). Researchers in one recent study found that the younger individuals begin piercing the more likely they are to exhibit antisocial tendencies (Frederick & Bradley, 2000). However, piercing is generally regarded as less extreme than tattooing because removing the body jewelry will ordinarily cause the pierced hole to heal (Armstrong, 1996). This may explain why this practice of body alteration has been only briefly mentioned in the literature and rarely studied in its own right. Tattoos have been empirically associated with a several deviant behaviors (Braithwaite, Stephens, Bowman, Milton, & Braithwaite, 1998; Buhrich, 1983; Ceniceros, 1998; Drews, Allison, & Probst, 2000; Raspa & Cusack, 1990; Verberne, 1969) and criminality (Fox, 1976;...

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Manuel, L., & Sheehan, E. P. (2007). Getting Inked: Tattoos and College Students. College Student Journal, 41(4), 9. Retrieved from

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