Term of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 1

Rebecca Ryan

Committee Member 2

Janice Steirn


The body modification culture is an under-researched social group. Psychologists have yet to examine a wide range of body modification behaviors to obtain a more robust appreciation for developmental and social factors that influence psychological outcomes specific to emerging adults in college. In light of this need, the current study sought to investigate the prevalence of a wide range of tattoo behaviors, differences in identity development and well-being (by gender and tattoo status) and the potential moderating effects of identity development and well-being on the tattoo status-risky behavior relationships. The sample included 330 undergraduate students (228 women and 96 men), 36.4% reported at least one tattoo. The most salient motivations behind tattoo acquisition were beauty/art/fashion, personal narrative, and expression of individuality. Results did not reveal a significant main effect for tattoo status on identity development and well-being measures. However, a main effect for gender was revealed, suggesting that women report higher levels of identity development and eudaimonic well-being compared to men. Tattoo status was positively related to illicit drug use and risky sexual behaviors, however, regression analyses did not detect significant moderating effects between tattoos and risky behaviors for identity development and well-being constructs. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are explored.

Research Data and Supplementary Material