Life Experiences Represented by Tattoos and Scars on Body Maps of Male Adolescents in Conflict with the Law
Keywords:adolescents, conflict with the law, body mapping, gangs, scars, tattoos, visual methods
This qualitative study aimed at exploring the life experiences represented by tattoos and scars of adolescent males in conflict with the law. The adolescent participants were detained in restrictive placement at what was then called Special Youth Centres. A case study design guided the research, which was conducted in 2010/2011. Fifteen unstructured interviews were conducted with five participants. Body maps were used as visual data-collection strategy. Three themes were identified from the transcripts. First, the contextual factors that characterised the living situations of participants. Second, narratives of pain and suffering were linked to the scars indicated on body maps. Most scars could be linked to domestic violence, physical abuse, harsh parenting practices, and gang involvement. The third theme outlined the link between tattoos and gangs. Participants expressed the negative consequences of such tattoos and described how emotions triggered them to get new tattoos. Two conclusions can be drawn: families should offer a safe haven to children, but often do not; while gangs offer protection, identity and access to commodities, with negative short- and long-term consequences.
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