By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

LUBBOCK, Texas, January 14, 2010 ( – A new study titled “Body Art, Deviance, and American College Students” suggests that people who have multiple tattoos or body piercings are more likely to engage in risky and criminal behavior.

The research by Jerome R. Koch, a sociology professor at Texas Tech University, reveals that those who have four or more tattoos, seven or more body piercings, or one “intimate piercing,” are far more prone to use illegal drugs, be arrested for criminal offenses, cheat on college work, binge drink, and have multiple sex partners.

Professor Koch surveyed 1753 American college students, asking them to report their level of body art acquisition and their history of deviance.

He found that while “a single dolphin or rose on one’s ankle is seemingly benign, and not especially rebellious,” those with “multiple tattoos, fully tattooed arm “sleeves,” or intimate piercings of the nipples or genitals” were “positively related to an overall higher incidence of social deviance.”

“These students,” the report states, “are ten times more likely to have an arrest history, a four-fold increase in drug use, other than marijuana, and there’s a five-fold increase in having had nine or more sex partners in the last year.”

Explaining how he arrived at an objective analysis of “deviance” Professor Koch said that his research “differentiates and measures the relationships between escalating levels of body art and social deviance. Deviance was measured here in terms of behavior that is legal, but contrary to social norms, as well as behavior that is overtly illegal.”

“Escalating levels of body art are measured in terms of increasing numbers of general piercings and tattoos as well as with a separate category of respondents who have nipple or genital (intimate) piercings.”

The research found that 37% of all respondents to the survey were pierced, 14% were tattooed, and a noticeable few (4%) had seven or more piercings, four or more tattoos, and/or an intimate piercing.

“While not terribly common in this sample, even extreme body art seems to be visibly present in the mainstream college and university scene,” the report noted.

Professor Koch concludes that while acquiring distinctive body art may mark a desire for individual uniqueness and “the level of deviance reported by respondents with low levels of body art is much closer to those with none,” he warns that “escalating levels of body art acquisition and social deviance seem to be concurrent phenomena.”

“30 years ago,” Professor Koch observed, “those who had tattoos were part of a subculture, but now it has become more mainstream, and so some people are pushing the envelope in the use of body art in order to be different.”

The full text of the report, which will be published in the March issue of The Social Science Journal, is available here.