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Are Tattooing and Body Piercing Indicators of Risk-Taking Behaviours Among High School Students?

NCJ Number
Journal of Adolescence Volume: 29 Issue: 3 Dated: June 2006 Pages: 379-393
Marthe Deschesnes; Philippe Fines; Stephanie Demers
Date Published
June 2006
15 pages
This cross-sectional study of a sample of 2,180 students who were between 12 and 18 years old examined any links between a number of risk-taking behaviors and the piercing of body parts or having tattoos.
The findings of this study suggest that tattooing and body piercing among youth is not a mainstream, normative behavior, but rather is most prevalent among those youth involved in various risk-taking behaviors. Among all students in the sample, 7.9 percent had at least one tattoo, and 27.6 percent had at least one body piercing other than earlobes. Both practices were more frequent among girls than among boys, and gender differences were greater for body piercing than for tattooing. Substance use was more strongly associated with tattoos for both genders. All substance use was also linked with body piercing for boys as well as girls, although not as strongly as for tattoos. For both genders, being tattooed or pierced was also linked to various illegal activities, gang affiliation, problem gambling, school truancy, and attendance at rave events. No significant association was found between tattooing and body piercing and self-esteem, psychological distress, or suicide ideations once other variables were taken into account. Study data were collected in 2002 from a sample of 2,180 students from 23 high schools in the Outaouais region of Canada. Data were collected directly from students in a self-report survey. The variables measured were body modification, suicide ideations, substance use, delinquent behaviors, gang affiliation, gambling-related problems, and attendance at rave events. 3 tables and 41 references