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June 12, 1996

Prediction of Violence Both Art and Science

JAMA. 1996;275(22):1712. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530460016006

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TATTOOS, which appear to be enjoying unprecedented popularity especially among young people in the United States, are aptly described as "bumper stickers of the soul" and should alert a physician to assess a patient's propensity for violence, said Phillip Resnik, MD, director of a course on the prediction of violence at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, held in New York, NY.

Tattooed persons show a higher likelihood of drug use, criminality, and impulsivity, said Resnick, who practices psychiatry in Cleveland, Ohio. The most common tattoo—found on 1 in 4 tattoo-wearers, according to Resnick—says "Mom" or "Mother."

Sentiment notwithstanding, mothers are also the most likely victims of violence, particularly repeated violence, by psychiatric patients with or without tattoos. Mentally disabled men often live with their mothers, with their fathers absent, Resnick noted, and mothers and significant others are most likely to become targets of aggression when setting limits.