Parents today are not only choosing a name for their child, but are working to position themselves and their children in the social sphere, a doctoral thesis presented by Emilia Aldrin this week shows.
In today’s society, a name has become a brand.
“Traditional or modern: Nils or Neo? Common or original: Emma or Elda? Practical or aesthetic: Ville or Whilliam? Swedish, foreign or international: Love, Logan or Lucas? These are some of the social decisions that parents today have to make,” said Emilia Aldrin in a statement.
In her thesis "Naming as a social act: Parents' choices of first names and discussions of first names in Göteborg 2007–2009" Aldrin has studied how 600 parents in the greater Gothenburg area have come to decide on the name of their babies.
She has come to the conclusion that parents create a family image by choosing different types of names, different spellings, who they are inspired by in their choice of names, and how they speak about these choices.
But it isn’t just the parents’ identity that is reflected in the name – it is also the foundation of the child’s identity. According to Aldrin, many parents take this into account when choosing a name.
They may choose a name that feels right for the performing arts, for an international career, or for simply blending in within the society in which they live.
Vilda and Lyon were deemed suitable names for an artistic performer. William was deemed a promising CEO name and Henry would suit a Nobel Prize winner.
“The choice of name tells us something of who the parents are -but also about what future they are imagining for the child,” Aldrin said.
The study showed that older parents, with a higher level of education and who live in detached houses were more likely to be traditional in their choice of names.
Younger parents, with a less advanced level of education and who were living in apartments tended to go for more creative names.
Parents of boys more often went for foreign names or names of relatives, while parents of girls chose Swedish names and names that were more aesthetically pleasing.