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Tattooing and Perceptions

A tattoo can be described as a mark on the skin which is made by putting a rather permanent ink meant for decoration purposes. This is mostly the case with persons, but it is different with animals as their tattoo is meant for identification purposes (Armstrong & Fell, 2000). As far as perception of tattooing is concerned, I can say it is influenced by the environment we are staying in. This has something to do with people close to us, cultural background and the community’s acceptance (Armstrong & Fell, 2000). This essay will start by giving a brief trend on tattoo in regard to men’s fashion. It will proceed to focus on the perception of tattoo in our society. How do people perceive tattoos? What are they basically associated with? What influence do they have in our society? And how popular is this trend?

It appears like all and sundry has a tattoo now a days. This trend which was a habit associated with bandits has surprisingly been given a second look by many. A new trend is in the offing a people try to establish themselves using tattoos (Armstrong & Fell, 2000). From logos of big institutions to their own creations people are streaming in tattoo shops to have their designs put on them. Unlike the archaic way of putting these tattoos, that was very common in the past a new trend where tattoos are being administered using a machine is in the offing. This has made the whole process more comfortable and easier (Taylor, 1970).

Some researchers argue that the trend in tattooing and piercing indicates a shift in fashion and a break with body art's exclusive association with lower class people and deviant activities (Taylor, 1970). In this argument, the concept that tattoos or piercings are a form of self-mutilation or a way of expressing a negative attitude is rejected (Martin, 1997). However, little evidence has been presented to demonstrate that the association between tattooing and various negative behaviors or personality disorders was unjustified in the past or has changed in the current culture.

Different people have portrayed diverse perceptions on tattoos. A good example is given with yakuza tribe in Japan who normally use tattoo to identify themselves with their clan. Going by the evil deeds one has committed, they usually tattoo a ring which is black in color to indicate that (Taylor, 1970). Generally, the tattoo is used by the yakuza to indicate their unwillingness in getting in touch with other societies, in other words they just want to be. The perception in Japan, just like in many places in the world has not changed a lot. For instance, in some restaurants in Japan they usually turn down offers on those people who are tattooed (Armstrong & Fell, 2000).

Secondly, another perception about tattooing is that, it has been viewed by many as an impulsive or irresponsible behavior and has been associated with psychiatric disturbances in some literature. As increasingly diverse groups of people get tattoos, popular perceptions are often discordant with the individual meanings behind tattoos. Still, tattooing is often seen as a negative behavior (Armstrong & Fell, 2000). Previous research has highlighted several stereotypes about those with tattoos, including being unsuccessful in school, coming from broken homes, having an unhappy childhood, rarely attending church, having poor decision-making skills, usually obtaining body modifications while inebriated, and being easy victim to peer pressure (Armstrong, 1994).

Tattoos are associated with so many thins ax explained in this case study. A recent study examined the attitudes toward tattooing of 287 participants using ratings of "avatars" or virtual computer human characters. Researchers found that those avatars with tattoos and other body modifications were rated as more likely to be thrill and adventure seekers, to have a higher number of previous sexual partners, and to be less inhibited than non-tattooed avatars, and that this was more so for male avatars with body modifications (Taylor, 1970).

In yet another perception on tattoo, Taylor (1968) found that among delinquent girls incarcerated in juvenile facilities, the more heavily tattooed were more aggressive, uncooperative, and unstable in addition to being more criminal in their attitude and behavior. Female prison inmates with tattoos were more likely to have been in all four types of institutions--juvenile halls, reformatories, jails, and prisons (Fox, 1976).

In a later study, tattooed women prisoners had more violent and aggressive offenses in addition to more prior convictions (Taylor, 1970). While in prison, women with tattoos were more frequently charged with violation of prison rules, with fighting, and with insubordination. In research involving college student respondents, males with tattoos were more likely to report having been arrested and females with tattoos were more likely to report shoplifting (Drews et al., 2000). Tattooed people have been found to be more likely to engage in substance abuse. Prior studies have reported strong associations between tattoos and homosexual orientation for both males and females (Fox, 1976; Taylor, 1970).

With tattoos becoming more popular, stereotypes once commonly held, and sometimes supported by older literature or by studies done with particular subpopulations (e.g., prisoners, juvenile delinquents), may no longer be true. It will be interesting to see how the literature shifts as norms change, and whether or not stigmatization is slow or rapid in its catching up to reality (Fox, 1976; Taylor, 1970).

What influence do tattoos have in our society? In the recent research, tattoos have been confirmed as the most recent of all the time to most parents. It has been indicated that, a good percentage of teenagers have been affected by this trend. This trend is emanating from the celebrities with whom the teens associate with (Fox, 1976; Taylor, 1970). What is even more worrying is the fact that, while imitating these people, they are also picking on other habits apart from tattoos. In one of the states, this trend has led to establishment of a law to curb this worrying yet rampant behavior. A good example is Minnesota, where the authority categorically stated that underage won’t be allowed to have tattoos even with approval of their parents.

It has been confirmed that most of these teenagers are deriving pleasure from getting tattoos and is affecting their life later. They ignorantly engage in putting them to identify themselves with certain groups.  Sooner or later they realize the mistake and start regretting looking for solutions (Armstrong & Fell, 2000). The end result is that, they are left with more problems than earlier thought. In Minnesota, the laws are very clear on this and it’s only grown ups that are recognized to enjoy this privilege. It is worth noting that, unless something is done to curb this behavior we are son going to have all teens adopting this behavior (Armstrong et al., 2000).

Tattoos have become very popular with time. Estimates for the prevalence of tattooing itself have varied from a low of 3% in a random national survey conducted in 1990 (Armstrong & Fell, 2000) to 25% of people 15-25 years old (Armstrong et al., 2000). The Alliance of Professional Tattooists estimates that 15-20% of teenagers are tattooed (Braithwaite et al., 1998). Nationwide estimates vary from 7 million people to 20 million people with tattoos (Grief, et al., 1999; Martin et al., 1995)

In conclusion, the above essay is a clear indication that tattoos have become part of our lives and it is a fact we cannot deny. To see that it has been adapted as a tradition in some communities is no mean achievement. However, the society cannot bury its head in the sand on the effects the tattoo has on the teens (Armstrong & Fell, 2000).

Works cited:

Fox, J. (1976). Self-imposed stigmata: A study among female inmates. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, State University of New York at Albany.

Drews, D., Allison, C., & Probst, J. (2000). Behavior and self concept differences in tattooed and nontattooed college students. Psychological Reports, 86, 475-481

Armstrong, M. (1991). Career oriented women with tattoos. Image-The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 23(4), 215-220.

Greif, J., Hewitt, W., & Armstrong, M. (1999). Tattooing and body piercing. Clincial Nursing Research, 8(4), 368-385.

Martin, A. (1997). On teenagers and tattoos. Journal of American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 36(6), 860-861.

DeMello, M. (1995). Not just for bikers anymore: Popular representation of American tattooing. Journal of Popular Culture, 29(3), 37-52.

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