Bad Baby Names Can Hurt a Child’s Education, Says Study

A new study has measured the greater effects of what you name your baby. A badly chosen name could lead to a poor education, low self-esteem and condemnation to loneliness, writes Amanda Mikelberg at the New York Daily News.

The study, published by the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, consists of data gathered from 12,000 adult participants. It found that a bad first name can not only lower self-esteem, but raise chances of smoking and low educational attainment.

"There seems to be prejudice based on name valence [or associations]," says study co-author Wiebke Neberich, previously of the International Max Planck Research School.

"It's a mostly unconscious process where all the associations we have with a particular name will pop up: from the newspapers, from stories and, of course, from our own history."

The researchers concluded that an "unfortunate" first name can inhibit the chances of a relationship — and may even increase one's likelihood to become a smoker than those whose names were attractive.

"Negative names evoke negative interpersonal reactions, which in turn influence people's life outcomes for the worse.

"These things can't only be triggered by having a good or bad name, but having a good or bad name does have a small influence.

"It's remarkable that just a name can influence how your social environment reacts to you, and how this reaction can influence your life."

Howard Portnoy at Hot Air points out, however, that there is no guarantee that a child born with what he considers a silly first name will stick with it.

"Free Hershey, the son of actress Barbara Hershey, changed his first name to Tom at age 9. Ronan Farrow, the biological son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, didn't legally change his first name—which is Satchel—but never uses it."

Portnoy points out that Farrow, a former Rhodes Scholar, hasn't done too badly for himself despite his peculiar name. He currently serves in the Obama administration as Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues and director of the State Department's Global Youth Issues office.

"Naturally, name valence varies with culture, though obviously there are exceptions. It is hard to imagine that naming your child Adolf Hitler is going to redound to his good fortune regardless of where he lives", writes Portnoy.

01 14, 2012
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