Body piercing and high-risk behavior in adolescents

Timothy A. Roberts, Peggy Auinger, Sheryl A. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate the association of body piercing with sociodemographic factors, peer substance use, and high-risk behaviors. Methods: Cross-sectional analysis using Wave II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) Public Use Dataset, a nationally representative, school-based sample of 4337 adolescents, aged 13-18 years, surveyed in 1996. The major predictor variable was body piercing at locations other than the ears. The outcome variables were selected from five areas of high-risk behaviors including sexual intercourse, substance use (problem drinking, smoking, and marijuana use), violent behavior (fighting and inflicting injuries), antisocial behavior (truancy, shoplifting, and running away), and mood problems (depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts). The association between body piercing and peer substance use was also examined. Results: Females (7.2% vs. 1.5%) and older adolescents were more likely to report piercing (all p's < .01) In linear regression analysis, controlling for sociodemographic factors, body piercing was significantly associated with higher levels of peer substance use (β = 1.40 [99% CI .57-2.23]). In logistic regression analyses, controlling for sociodemographic factors, piercing was associated with sexual intercourse (OR = 4.5 [99% CI 2.1-10.0]), smoking (3.1 [1.6-5.9]), marijuana use (3.0 [1.6-5.9]), truancy (2.6 [1.3-5.3]), running away from home (3.0 [1.2-7.2]), suicidal ideation (2.5 [1.2-4.9]), and suicide attempts (3.0 [1.2-7.5]). Conclusions: Clinically, body piercing may serve as a marker for higher levels of peer substance use and potential problem behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-229
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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