If, like most modern parents, you were pondering baby names for your new bundle of joy before you were pregnant, you know the importance of the perfect moniker. Baby names can reflect your deepest hopes and desires for a future, so just how will it affect your child later in life?
Research has shown that the name you bestow upon your child could have long-lasting and unexpected impacts for years to come. According to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby, one of the biggest trends in baby-naming has been the sheer volume and diversity of choices. In past generations, children were more likely to take on family or traditional names, and the pool to choose from was small. "Today's parents are eager for their kids to stand out, rather than fit in," Wattenberg says. "That's part of a general elevation of individuality as a prized virtue in our society."
However, attempts at individuality can backfire. What mom hasn't walked into the first day of preschool and discovered that her darling Aiden, Ava, Gavin or Grace had two, three or even four counterparts in class? According to Wattenberg, the name Brooklyn, for example, used to be unheard of—now, it's more popular than Mary, Anne and Margaret put together. Is finding five Fionas in your neighborhood daycare just annoying, or is there more to it?
Researcher Dr. David Figlio notes that "Parents should be aware that the name they choose has consequences, and they should be prepared to advocate for and instill self-confidence in their child if they are choosing a name that goes against the grain."
It's easier to see the power of a name in action than understand its cause, Figlio says. While reasons might be hard to pin down, parents might want to ponder these recent findings before they make it official.
Gender Benders. Dr. Figlio's research suggests that boys who are given names that are unclassifiable by gender have more behavioral problems in the classroom. If a boy named Alex starts school with a girl with the same name, he's more likely to be teased or bullied. Curiously, according to the research, the torment only goes one way—the girl Alex will be just fine.
Family Tradition. If family custom dictates that your boy be given a gender neutral name, try adding a nickname for him to use school. Change "Leslie" to "Les" or "Robin" to "Rob", remember that masculine names can evolve over time. Many traditionally male names like "Leslie" and "Beverly" have morphed into exclusively female names over time.
Great Expectations. If you have trouble picturing a brain surgeon named Barbie or Bambi, you aren't alone. In another study, Dr. Figlio created a scale to measure how "girlish" a name sounded, and found that girls with more masculine names chose to study math and science more than those with names that fell more on the feminine side.
How do you pronounce that? Choose a name and a spelling that's meaningful to you, but don't be fooled into thinking that an oddball variation of a common name will make life easier for little Jazzmyn or Jaxson. These can have an unintended effect on his literacy skills, says Dr. Figlio. "Children with deviant spellings of popular names tend to progress more slowly in reading and spelling in elementary school than those with more traditional spellings."
Look to The Future. A study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people with more recognizable names and spellings were more successful in getting job interviews and promotions.
With a little research, you'll find the most successful way to combine tradition with a meaningful moniker to open as many doors as possible for your baby's future.