Naming a new baby? It’s a serious matter. After years of research, University of Florida’s David N. Figlio has concluded that the name you choose for your baby today will have a profound effect on the rest of his life, and it may not be for the best.
Life Ain’t Easy for a Boy Named “Sue”
“I knew you’d have to get tough or die, and it’s the name that helped to make you strong.” So said the father of Johnny Cash’s fictitious hero, Sue, who fortunately did grow strong in the end. But we all know it was just a song. For any boy given a feminine name, things will not often go as well.
It doesn’t have to be an obvious name like “Sue.” It could be Ashley, Shannon, Devon or Marion. Any androgynous name which can be given equally to girls can cause a problem for boys.
Hey, Who Are You Calling “Elizabeth?”
It’s less important in the early grades. Perhaps children that young aren’t too concerned with gender. Figlio’s research does show, however, that starting in grade six, boys who’ve been given girlish names often begin to exhibit a marked increase in disciplinary problems. The situation is exacerbated if a girl in his class happens to have the same name as his.
Girls with Boys’ Names
In contrast, Figlio found that girls who are given masculine names may actually benefit. While a girl with a feminine name like Mary may lean toward the humanities, she is more likely to major in math and science if she’s been given a name like Morgan. Moreover, in contrast to the fate of boys with girlish names, girls given boys’ names are highly unlikely to suffer any adverse social consequences because of it.
Figlio specifically identifies names like Taylor, Madison and Alexis as twice as likely to belong to boys as to girls, while names like Elizabeth, Kayla and Isabella are never given to boys.
Names and Social Class
In his 2004 paper, “Names, Expectations, and the Black-White Test Score Gap,” Figlio states that some teachers may unconsciously discriminate against children whose names sound as if they come from a lower socioeconomic class..
Figlio feels that names which fall into any of these four categories are more likely to be considered lower class:
1. Uncommon names beginning with prefixes such as “Lo-,” “Ta-,” and “Qua-.”
2. Uncommon names ending in suffixes such as “-isha” and “-ious.”
3. Names which include an apostrophe.
4. Long names containing several low-frequency consonants such as ‘Q’, ‘X’, and ‘Z’.
Unique and Unusual Baby Names
San Diego researcher Jean Twenge believes that the current fashion of giving children one-of-a-kind names may actually enable them to stand out in later life. However, in “The Narcissism Epidemic,”Twenge goes on to wonder whether having a very unusual name can eventually lead these children to become narcissistic.
That could also be said of a child given a normal name with an unusual spelling. However, Figlio feels that a child who has a differently-spelled a name might experience difficulty in learning to read and write. He suggests that a girl named, for example, “Gennifer” might spend so much time answering the question, “Are you sure it’s really spelled that way?” that she would lose confidence in her ability to spell anything correctly.
Practice Safe Naming Conventions
A British study performed by Bounty, the UK’s Favorite Parenting Club, has shown that as many as one in five parents later regrets the baby name that he or she has chosen. Don’t let this happen to you! A little thought when naming your child can prevent a lot of problems down the road.
Geoff and Laura King, “Brilliant Baby Names”
David N.Figlio, “Names, Expectations, and the Black-White Test Score Gap”