Study shows link between tattoos and anger

Published: 15 October 2015 at 13:20

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Although now mainstream, adults with tattoos are more aggressive and rebellious

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A new study shows that despite now being mainstream, UK adults with tattoos are still more aggressive and rebellious than those without.

Led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University, the study surveyed 378 adults (181 women and 197 men) between 20 and 58 years old.

The research, to be published in the next edition of the journal Body Image, found that tattooed individuals reported significantly higher levels of verbal aggression, anger, and reactive rebelliousness compared with non-tattooed adults.

In addition, women reported significantly higher verbal aggression, proactive rebelliousness, and reactive rebelliousness than men. There was also a correlation between the number of tattoos a person has and their levels of anger.

The study found that 25.7% of those surveyed possessed at least one tattoo and of those with tattoos, the average number per person was 2.5. There was no significant differences between tattooed and non-tattooed participants in their educational qualifications.

Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 

“We found that tattooed adults had significantly higher reactive rebelliousness, but not proactive rebelliousness, compared with non-tattooed adults.

“One explanation is that people who have higher reactive rebelliousness may respond to disappointing and frustrating events by getting tattooed.

“That is, when these individuals experience a negative emotional event, they may be more likely to react by pursuing an act that is seen as defiant. The act of tattooing is perceived as rebellious, or more generally tattoos themselves can signify defiance or dissent.

“On the other hand, there were no significant differences between tattooed and non-tattooed adults in proactive rebelliousness. It is possible that this form of rebelliousness, which is hedonistic and goal-driven, is at odds with the pain and permanence of tattoos.

“We also found that tattooed adults had higher aggression scores on two of the four dimensions of aggression that we measured, namely verbal aggression and anger.

“Although tattoos have now become commonplace in modern British society, our findings may have implications for understanding the reported associations between tattooing and risky behaviour among adults.”