Many cultures have used tattooing and body piercing as a form of body art and adornment. Body decor such as piercing or tattooing should not be considered a sign of psychiatric disturbance or deviant behavior. Although there are many that associate the practice of tattooing and body piercing with deviancy, body piercing and tattooing have actually been around for thousands of years.
Teens and Body Art
There is a possibility that tattooing and body piercing however, may be associated with risk taking behaviors in young adults and adolescents. It is particularly indicative of other high-risk behaviors in adolescents as opposed to college aged students. Tattooing for example was associated with high risk behaviors such as sexual intercourse, smoking, marijuana use and fighting as well as truancy in a survey of adolescents. Tattooing and body piercing are also more likely to be associated with behavioral eating disorder, gateway drug use and sexual activity in teens.
Studies suggest that approximately 10 percent of teenagers have tattoos. Surveys of high school and college students suggest that 25 to 35 percent have body piercings. Of those between the ages of 13 to 25 years of age up to 25 percent will also have tattoos.
Risks Associated with Body Art
There are risks associated with both tattooing and body piercing. The majority of the health risks associated with tattooing and body piercing are related to infectious complications and localized skin reactions. The potential for blood borne diseases however is also present. In a study of college students with body art, 45 percent reported infection at the piercing site, and another 29 percent reported a local skin reaction. Two cases of hepatitis were also reported.
Medical complications associated with piercings may include bleeding, bacterial infection and trauma. Infection is the most common risk associated with piercing. Hepatitis B and C can also be transmitted during tattooing or body piercing if inadequately sterilized equipment is used. This is more a risk among teens who use amateur piercing or tattooing methods rather than among individuals that seek out professional care.
Approaching Your Teen
Adolescents are more likely to listen to any fears and concerns you may have about body adornment if you approach them with an open mind. Teens are more likely to tune into nonverbal cues, and if they see that these are dismissive in nature, teens may discuss body art with someone other than you or their health care provider. Often teens seek out advice from commercial tattoo or piercing artists.
Physicians should work together with patients to provide them with factual information regarding tattooing and body piercing rather than moral judgments. Teens should also be reminded that most reputable studios require that teens be 18 years of age or older, or have parental permission in order to acquire a tattoo or piercing.
What Can You do to Assist Your Teen in Learning about Tattoos and Piercing.
Encourage your teen to talk to others who have been tattooed or pierced to gauge their experience.
Remind teens that the effects (particularly of tattooing) are often permanent and encourage them to consider the long term consequences.
Encourage teens to take their time.
Educate your teen regarding the risks, particularly of acquiring body art in a nonprofessional atmosphere.
Encourage teens to fully understand the health risks.
Remind your teens about the costs involved in tattoo and piercing maintenance.