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Bodily Signs of Academic Success: An Empirical Examination of Tattoos and Grooming

Eric Silver, Stacy Rogers Silver, Sonja Siennick, George Farkas
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2011.58.4.538 538-564 First published online: 1 November 2011


This study examined the relationship between bodily comportment (tattoos and grooming) and the likelihood of going to college among a national sample of 11,010 adolescents gathered as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Results show that adolescents with tattoos and those judged as poorly groomed by Add Health interviewers were significantly less likely to go to college after graduating from high school. These effects were similar in magnitude to those of other well-known demographic correlates of educational attainment, including family SES and family structure. Results also show that involvement in deviant activities accounted for much of the lower likelihood of going to college among adolescents with tattoos. Similar results were observed across gender, SES, and race groups, with the exception of Asians, for whom the lower likelihood of going to college among those with tattoos was especially pronounced. Overall, this study supports the conclusion that bodily signs constitute an important and relatively untapped source of information for predicting college matriculation among adolescents.

  • tattoos
  • body
  • adolescence
  • deviance
  • grooming
  • education

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