What's in a name? According to recent research, the more unique the moniker you bestow on your little ones, the more narcissistic you may be.
Even Brangelina, for all their charity work, are rather self-involved, according to this study. And for an even stranger twist, this week we learn Shiloh would rather go by "John."
Wrong gender, sure, but maybe she's onto something (or precociously read the study and didn't want her parents to be seen in such a disparaging light).
At five-months pregnant, my husband and I have also given a lot of thought to what we would name our first son. After I ix-nayed his suggestions of Panthro and Maximus, we settled on a simple family name: Henry.
Though I thought his suggestions were A) funny, and B) never gonna happen, had we actually decided to give our son one of those unusual names, we would have been like the millions of moms a recent study pointed fingers at, all because of what their children answer to.
The study, published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that in recent years, parents have been less likely to give their children popular names. For instance, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, about 5 percent of babies were named the most common names then (John and Mary), reported LiveScience
. More recently, that dropped to a scant 1 percent being named Aiden or Emma, this decade's most popular names
The researchers even adjusted for immigration rates, which could arguably lead to fewer Jacks and more Juans. As Jean Twenge, PhD, one of the researchers concluded, "The most compelling explanation left is this idea that parents are much more focused on their children standing out. There's been this cultural shift toward focusing on the individual, toward standing out and being unique as opposed to fitting in with the group and following the rules."
Then she went in for the kill: "I think it is an indication of our culture becoming more narcissistic," Twenge says.
It's hardly surprising she would think that, considering she's written two books
on the wave of narcissism slowly sweeping America. But we wondered what all the mothers of Apples and Bronxes and Zumas would have to say.
"My husband and I did not take the naming process lightly," says Chevonne Zavitz, 31, of British Columbia about her son, Ewan. "I have always thought -- incorrectly or not -- that a parent who chooses to name their child a top 100 name really didn't give the whole naming process a lot of thought."
Her argument: Kids naturally act a bit like lemmings -- choosing similar clothing and habits just to fit in -- so why would she want to encourage the groupthink by giving her kid a name so many in the same age range would also have?
Rebecca Engler*, 30, mother to twins Dahlia and Athena, takes a more "to each her own" stance: "I think one could argue it's narcissistic to have children in the first place, so it seems like splitting hairs to decide parents are narcissists based on their name choice -- not to mention ridiculous," she says. "But I think just as every parent is entitled to name their child what they wish, every researcher is entitled to her own opinion."
Spoken more like the mother of future diplomats than debutantes.
But Meredith Bates, 31, of Charlotte, N.C., who named her 5-week-old son Charleston, fired back:
"Parents who name their kids unique names think that their kids are special? Every child is special, why would I not think my child is?"
And, as for the study's assertions that parents who choose out-there names aren't interested in their kid fitting in:
"She's right about that," she says. "I'd like to teach my child to be his own unique self and not just try and 'fit in.' I don't think that's being narcissistic -- I think that's called being a good parent."
What do you think: Does naming your child Apple or Zuma set them apart from the crowd -- or mean you live to hog the limelight?
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and their not-so-narcissistic mothers, who chose to remain anonymous.
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