Friday, March 25, 2011

More Than Just a Name

By Taryn Barrette, RD

This week, popular British actor James Corden became the father of a healthy baby boy named….well, the London press reports that the happy couple are still pondering whether or not to give the baby boy the Corden’s traditional family middle name of “Kimberly.” There is no denying baby names are becoming more unusual - but have you ever thought about how your child’s name could affect his behavior in the future? Every day we read about stranger names for babies. Take these outlandish examples from actor Lance Henriksen who named his daughter Alcamy Henriksen or Pen Jillett’s daughter, Moxie Crimefighter Jillett (yes, you read that right, her middle name is Crimefighter). Selecting the right name to fit your future child’s personality (as if you could predict this prenatally!) can be fun. However, your choice of name can have a long-term impact on your child. A person’s name can influence their personality and can “… influence how [kids] think about themselves and the way in which [other] people might think about them."(1) In this post, we’ll share what we’ve learned about some of the short and long term effects a name can have on a child.

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Baby naming trends change from generation to generation and can be influenced by the political and economic climate of each country. Did you know that an Egyptian father recently named his daughter "Facebook" after the instrumental role the website played in the recent political uprisings in his country? Today, even the most popular names (Aiden or Sophia) are not as widespread as the most popular names were in 1900. For example, in 1900, the most popular boys’ and girls’ names (John and Mary) were held by about 5% of the population. In contrast, the most popular boys’ name from 2009, Jacob, was held by only about 1% of the population.(1)

How could a child’s name affect his behavior? There is some research that shows that children with unique names (think of Apple, Bronx or Tigerlily) are more narcissistic than children with more traditional names.(1) This, however, could be due in part to the personalities of the parents who chose the names. As names continue to diverge from the traditional, the new definition of ‘unique’ will take on new meaning. Soon “Dweezil” may be as common as Sophia! (2)

Other studies indicate that boys with more feminine names like Cameryn or Shannon don’t behave any differently than boys with more masculine sounding names until grade school - then these boys have a higher incidence of behavioral issues than their peers.(1) Sadly, teachers have admitted to having unintentional name biases when they first see their classroom rosters. Teachers may subconsciously stereotype kids with ethnic, unique, or traditional sounding names to have (or not have) certain levels of academic performance or behaviors.(1)

Name vs. Nurture

Though these interesting facts may make a child's name seem to be an overwhelming influence on his life, we should remember that the environment, the parents, and the manner in which the child is nurtured combine to shape a child’s behavior. Picking the perfect name is a challenge, but remember, your parenting is what will have the biggest impact on your child’s behavior even if his middle name is Kimberly. Just make sure to think twice before deciding that Audio Science (that’s actress Shannyn Sossamon’s son’s name) sounds like a good name for your new bundle of joy.

Next time: More Baby Behavior in the News


(1) Bryner, Jeanna. (13 June 2010). Good or Bad, Baby Names Have Long-lasting Effects. Retreived from

(2) Appellation Nation Blog. Retrieved from

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