Characteristics of adolescents who expressed indifference or no interest towards body art
BACKGROUND The search for social identity seems important to young people's efforts at finding a social practice that fulfills their own needs. "Body art", i.e. tattoos and piercing, could be understood as a way of demonstrating a personal identity, though it is doubtful whether this practice over time could fill such needs in a modern society. This study addresses the question of whether young people that acquire tattoos or piercings have special characteristics in terms of social integration and behaviour. MATERIAL AND METHOD A cross-sectional questionnaire was administered to junior high school students (6th, 8th and 10th grade, age 11-15) in a Norwegian town (population: 40,000). A total of 1237 students filled in the questionnaire. The social integration and health-impacting behaviour of those with body art was compared to those without. Adjustments were made for age and sex through linear and logistic regression analysis. RESULTS Teenagers with body art are just as active in their spare time as their peers without such decorations and they are just as close to and trusting of their friends (relational quality), but they are more integrated with their friends in terms of time spent with them (relational quantity). Teenagers with body art see themselves as less well integrated in school than their peers. Moreover, they assess the support they get from their parents and their closeness to them lower than do those without body art. Having body art is strongly associated with health-compromising behaviour. INTERPRETATION Health-promoting efforts in schools would benefit from recognition of young people's need for expressing their personal identity and that so-called risk behaviour may be an expression of personal identity. A focus on mastering experiences and inter-generational dialogue could be as fruitful as a focus on risk behaviour.