Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Babies named for fathers, not mothers, reflect US cultural ideologies

Date:
November 7, 2013
Source:
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Summary:
From Cal Ripkin, Jr., to Robert Downey, Jr., finding men named after their fathers -- with so-called patronyms -- is easy. But what about matronymns -- names for a mother or grandmother? New research shows that matronymns are rare and that family naming trends follow a regional pattern in the United States: people in states that place higher emphasis on honor are more likely to use patronyms, especially in the face of a terrorist threat.

From Cal Ripkin, Jr., to MLK to Robert Downey, Jr., finding men named after their fathers is easy. Children named after men in the family -- with so-called patronyms -- are common around the world. But what about matronymns -- names for a mother or grandmother? New research shows that matronymns are rare and that family naming trends follow a regional pattern in the United States: People in states with a relatively high emphasis on honor are more likely to use patronyms, especially in the face of a terrorist threat.

"Studying naming trends can be a subtle means of peering into a society's beliefs and values without ever having to ask people to report directly about their beliefs and values," says Ryan Brown of the University of Oklahoma. Brown is not an expert in baby names but rather studies cultural values and trends. He became interested in the connection between names and cultural values when his collaborator, Mauricio Carvallo, was researching names for his new baby girl. They started to wonder whether values associated with honor and reputation affected whether people named their children after men or women in the family.

Social scientists define "cultures of honor" as places where the defense of reputation plays an unusually important role in social life. "For men in a typical honor culture, the kind of reputation that is highly prized is a reputation for toughness and bravery," Ryan says. "For women in a typical honor culture, the most valued reputation is a reputation for loyalty and sexual purity." Two decades of research has shown that people in the Southern and Western regions of the United States tend to embrace honor cultures more than in the North.

To see how those values translate into children's names, Ryan and colleagues designed several studies to look at naming trends. The studies included surveying people about their beliefs and their likelihood of naming their children after men or women in the family and included a novel, indirect method to look at actual U.S. baby name trends. In all the studies, published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, they found that people who endorse honor ideology were most likely to use patronyms.

In the study of U.S. name trends, the researchers used Social Security Administration data to identify the 10 most popular boy and girl names in each state in 1960, 1984, and 2008. The idea was to look at 24-year cycles to see how frequently the same names popped up one and two generations later and then to compare it to regional trends of honor beliefs, controlling for a variety of other regional differences and demographics.

"Each state was given a patronym score and a matronym score by tallying how many of the 10 most popular names in one generation showed up again among the most popular names given to the next generation, or in the generation after that," Ryan says. "Higher scores show that baby names were being recycled from one generation to the next, and these scores showed a regional pattern to them similar to the patterns we see with other behaviors connected to honor ideology around the United States."

States in the South and West tended to have higher patronym scores than did states in the North. And those same states ranked higher in indicators of honor ideology -- such as execution rates, Army recruitment levels, and suicide rates among White men and women. They also found that after 9/11, the use of patronyms increased in culture-of-honor states. And similarly, people who were asked to think about a fictitious terrorist attack were more likely to say they'd use patronyms if they also strongly endorsed honor ideology.

"The same pattern was not observed, however, when it came to matronyms, which is exactly what we expected," Ryan says. "Matronyms, unlike patronyms, are not any more popular in the South and West compared to the North, and they do not predict any statewide variables to a significant degree."

Indeed, matronyms are very rare in Western culture. "Everyone probably knows a guy who is a 'junior,' given the exact same name as his father, and many know someone who is 'such-and-such the third,' having the same name as both his father and his grandfather," Ryan says. "But when was the last time you met a woman who had the same name as her mother, much less the same first and middle names as her mother, like Sally Anne Jones, Jr.?" Some famous female juniors include former First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Jr., Carolina Herrara, Jr. (daughter of the clothing designer), and Rory (aka Lorelai) from the TV show Gilmore Girls.

In the new analysis, Elizabeth was the only female name that showed up frequently across generations as a possible matronym. "Perhaps one of the reasons for this name's greater intergenerational use is that there are so many nicknames based on the name Elizabeth: Liz, Lizzy, Beth, Eliza, Lisa, Betty, etc.," Ryan says. "So, a girl named Elizabeth could be given her mother's name and most people might not even realize it."

Ryan says that this naming trend is one of the most pronounced gender differences we still see in society. "Women who once could only strive to work as nurses, teachers, or librarians can now aspire to be astronauts, brain surgeons, or senators," he says. "But don't expect anyone to give a girl her mother's name."

"The greater use of patronyms in these cultures reflects and transmits the value of masculinity and the male name," Ryan says. "A person's name, after all, is what people call that person, but it also represents that person's reputation -- how he or she is known in a community -- and all of the respect, status, or infamy that goes along with that reputation."

Ryan hopes that the current work shows how cultural values and events shape important personal decisions, such as naming children. "Our baby naming practices can shed light on what we care about, in a subtle way, and they might also serve as a mechanism for transmitting our cultural values from one generation to the next."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mikiko Imura et al. Naming Patterns Reveal Cultural Values: Patronyms, Matronyms, and the U.S. Culture of Honor. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2013

Cite This Page:

Society for Personality and Social Psychology. "Babies named for fathers, not mothers, reflect US cultural ideologies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107142534.htm>.
Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2013, November 7). Babies named for fathers, not mothers, reflect US cultural ideologies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107142534.htm
Society for Personality and Social Psychology. "Babies named for fathers, not mothers, reflect US cultural ideologies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107142534.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — The future of Aereo, an online service that provides over-the-air TV channels, hinges on a battle with broadcasters that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2014) — According to researchers at Albright College, women have the ability to make their voices sound sexier, but men don't. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins