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Report looks at impact of names

By Paul Nelson  |  Posted Feb 10th, 2009 @ 6:35am


A new report says boys with odd-sounding names may be more prone to trouble than other boys. But some professional baby namers question how accurate this research is.

If you ask people who have lived in Utah a few years the strangest name they've ever heard, they'll list some unique-sounding ones.

Shaniqua. Sheray. Riannon. Latrina. I had to question that one. Author of the Web site The Utah Baby Namer, Cari Clark, said, "I swear to you. There are at least two of them."

But let's focus on boy names. New research from the University of Pittsburgh says boys with unpopular names are more likely to commit crimes than boys named Michael or David. If that's true, Utah has been raising criminals for generations now.

Clark said, "Unusual names are not unique to the Utah culture; it's just that I think they've been around in the Mormon culture longer because you see some unusual names even back in the 1800s."

Clark says parents named many of their children things like Tanner and Kimball in the early ‘80s after leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, she says giving a boy a Mormon name could backfire.

"When you give a child a name like ‘Nephi' for example, you are loading that kid with a huge amount of expectations that don't necessarily come with a name like David," Clark said.

So, if Nephi were to ever drink an alcoholic beverage, people would assume he's breaking the rules of his religion. Both Clark and Operator Laura Wattenberg agree with part of the research which says parents in poor neighborhoods use more non-traditional names, and people from low socioeconomic areas are more likely to commit crime. But, Wattenberg disagrees with the notion that kids with unpopular names are treated worse by peers than other kids.

She said, "Let's say there's a class with Jaydon and Braydon, those are common names, and then there's Graydon, which is an uncommon name. It's hard to believe Graydon is going to be ostracized for his name while Braydon in embraced."

Plus, kids with odd names were likely given those names for a reason.

"Every name sends certain signals, so it's true that naming a child Mike may send a signal that he's right in the mainstream of society, but if you named that kid Maverick instead, you probably raised him differently instead, too," she said.

Wattenberg says bizarre names are becoming the norm. She says parents used to name their kids so they would fit in, but now they name them to stand out.


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