Tattoos and Gangs as Risk Factors for Juvenile Recidivism

Joanna Kubik, Paul Boxer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tattoos often are utilized as markers for gang involvement among youth and young adults (McGloin, 2005). Both gang involvement as well as tattoos also have been used as indicators of general risk-taking propensities in adolescents and young adults (Howell & Griffiths, 2018; McGloin, 2005). Although we know much about the impact of gang involvement on juvenile offending (Pyrooz, Decker, & Moule, 2015; Thomberry et al., 2003), we know very little about how tattoos relate to involvement in offending. This study examines the relations of gang involvement and tattoos to juvenile recidivism using data obtained from juvenile arrest records (N=1,008; ages 10-17; 82% male; 86% nonwhite). Of those juveniles arrested for the first time, approximately 13% were gang involved (N=128). Tattoo possession significantly differed by gang involvement, such that tattoos were more common among gang (81%) than non-gang youth (35%). While controlling for gang involvement, youth with tattoos had 162% greater risk of general re-arrest within 12 months compared to youth without tattoos. Youth in gangs had a 67% greater risk of general re-arrest within 12 months compared to non-gang youth. Understanding the influence of gang involvement and tattoo presence on youth offending has important implications for how serious problem behavior is addressed by the justice system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-39
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Gang Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Tattoos and Gangs as Risk Factors for Juvenile Recidivism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this