Having lots of tattoos can indicate low self-esteem. This is one of the findings of a study conducted by Marie Randle and Sue Aitken of Liverpool Hope University who will present their research today, Friday 3 April, at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brighton.
Some 48 participants from the North of England were asked about their reasons for having tattoos. The style and location of their tattoos were recorded and they completed questionnaires about self-esteem.
Findings highlighted the four main motivators for getting a tattoo: rebellion, aesthetic appearance, personal or emotional significance, and group affiliation. Men were more likely to have tattoos related to their group membership (such as football teams or army regiments). However, women tended to have tattoos for rebellious or aesthetic reasons.
Regardless of the reason for getting tattooed, people with three or more tattoos had significantly lower levels of self-esteem and, for these people, rebellion and group affiliation also tended to predict low self -esteem. For people with fewer tattoos, self-esteem was lowest when they had a tattoo for aesthetic reasons.
Marie Randle commented: “Tattooing has become more popular in recent years, especially amongst young women, and there is a growing fascination with the tattoos of celebrities.
“The findings of this study suggest that tattoos are not just fashion accessories, but driven by a wide range of motivational factors that are significantly associated with self-esteem. This strongly suggests that people considering getting tattooed should be encouraged to question their motivation before deciding to permanently change their appearance”.