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Is there a connection between highly visible tattoos and deviant behavior?

I’ve posted before about the connection between tattoos and deviant behavior (one tattoo is more like having none whereas having many has a correlation with involvement in drugs and crime.)

As for highly visible tatts:

Despite historical associations with deviance and marginality, tattooing is practiced by a diverse population in the United States today, leading some to argue that it has grown beyond its negative associations. Drawing on a nationally representative data set (n = 500) comprised of both tattooed and non-tattooed respondents, this analysis examines the social characteristics of those who are tattooed and the associations of tattooing with deviant behavior. Findings indicate that while tattooing has developed a broad demographic appeal, there remain some strong associations with deviance, particularly criminality. Specifically, highly visible placement of tattoos appears to be most strongly associated with deviant behaviors.

Source: “Marked Difference: Tattooing and its Association with Deviance in the United States” from Deviant Behavior, Volume 30, Issue 3 April 2009 , pages 266 – 292

And as for who gets them:

This study uses prospective longitudinal data to examine who acquired a first tattoo among a national sample of adolescents (n = 13,101). Results indicate that social bonds, prior deviant involvement, self-protection, and negative self-appraisal all were predictive of tattoo acquisition. Results also show nontrivial differences in the likelihood of tattoo acquisition for different subgroups of adolescents, ranging from 1 in 5 for adolescents who scored high on several risk factors at once to 1 in 160 for those who scored low. Implications for future research on tattoo acquisition among adolescents are discussed.

Source: “Tattoo Acquisition: A Prospective Longitudinal Study of Adolescents” from Deviant Behavior, Volume 30, Issue 6 August 2009 , pages 511 – 538

And while we may think of guys with tattoos as tough and badass, I learned in this book that one of the most consistent findings among Navy Seal instructors is that guys with tattoos tend not to make the grade.

Now before you think I’ve got a problem with body art, let me say that as Diego Gambetta describes in his phenomenal book Codes of the Underworld, some people get tattoos for damn good reasons.

And even more interesting: tattoos are associated with good genetics.

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About Eric Barker