Michael Andrew Detmer



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The role of the Student Affairs professional is to help students move towards self-authorship and independence, pushing them to become their most authentic self. A part of that process comes in the form of self-expression, and tattoos can be a large part of that. The questions that this study seeks to address are: How do students make meaning of the external and internal messages they receive about tattoos? To what extent do student describe getting a tattoo as connected to their identity development? The purpose of this study to explore how students who have tattoos, or those that are contemplating getting one, use tattoos to facilitate their movement towards self-authorship (or personal independence). This study seeks to examine tattooed students, or students strongly considering getting a tattoo, and how they make meaning of the external and internal messages they receive about them and if the tattoos they have (or will get) are connected to their identity development. Findings from this study emerge from interviews with tattooed University of Dayton students about the internal and external messages they have received about tattoos in a society that still connects tattoos with a negative stigma. Early findings suggest that students see their tattoos/the process of getting a tattoo as a way to let the world know that they are an individual, and can link it to some form of their identity. Other early findings suggest that the process of getting a tattoo can be some sort of healing process. Findings from this study can be used in practice by understanding if/why a student links their tattoo(s) to their identity, and offer them a space to open up and talk about what they mean and to help break the negative social stigma that comes with tattoos.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Graham F. Hunter

Primary Advisor's Department

Counselor Education


Stander Symposium project, student affairs, School of Education and Health Sciences

Self-Authorship and Meaning Making Through Tattoos