Abel, Richard Donald (2016-05). Twisted Ink: Comparing Tattooed and Non-Tattooed Life Course Deviance. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • This study aims to provide greater understanding of the relationship between tattoos and deviance. Historically, tattoos have been associated as markers of deviance, but with increasing popularity in modern-day society. I ask, does the acquisition of a tattoo have an effect on changes in deviant behavior? Longitudinal effects of tattoo acquisition on changes in deviant behavior participation are analyzed from the perspective of labeling and identity theories. Changes in deviant behavior participation are evaluated after tattoo acquisition among a large-scale representative national sample of young adults using The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Results of survey adjusted multivariate regression analyses indicate a largely nonsignificant difference between tattooed and non-tattooed individuals in terms of changes in deviant behavior participation, net of multiple control variables. Tattoo acquisition does not influence changes in deviant behavior during adolescence in the 12 months following acquisition. In the results of the analyses of changes in deviant behavior over the life course to young adulthood, tattooed and non-tattooed males show similarities in their deviant behavior. However, increases in life course violent deviant behavior specifically occurred in tattooed females compared to non-tattooed females. A combination of labeling and identity theories are applied to these findings in discussing possible theoretical implications. These results suggest that widespread acceptance and popularity of tattooing among the mainstream population of the United States has largely diminished the deviant stigma associated with becoming tattooed.

publication date

  • May 2016