Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Names and Internationally Adopted Children

Did you read the latest on boys' names? Apparently, giving a boy a less popular name increases the tendency for that child to become a juvenile delinquent.

I've been thinking about how this applies to boys adopted internationally. In Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, Patty Cogen, a family therapist with expertise in international adoption, strongly advises that the child's original name be kept for the following reasons:

1. The child recognizes and identifies with the name by four months of age.
2. A name is the first way people identify themselves, from infancy onward.
3. The name provides a link to the past.
4. The name may have been given by birth parents.
5. The name is linked to a child's ethnic or national origins.
6. A change of name is confusing for young children.
7. A change of name suggests a parental rejection of country of origin or ethnic background.
8. Parents want to keep the child's past and present life connected.

Although I think it's wonderful to keep a child's original name, I've always wondered whether keeping his name would just be one more thing that sets him apart. If adopted internationally, he probably looks different from his family and (possibly) his peers. He knows his family life didn't start the same way as that of most friends. He knows from early on that there are things that make him different.

We've been slow about introducing GG's new name. I still call him by his Chinese name about 90% of the time. However, I've run into roadblocks in public. Well-meaning folks butcher his Chinese name, even after having it repeated to them over and over again. I've wondered what his 3-year-old mind thinks while listening to these interchanges. What would happen if the same scenarios continued in school? Granted, not all internationally adopted kiddos have names that are equally easy (or difficult) to say. But our child's really isn't that complicated and it's still been hard for most people.

What do you think? For what reasons should a name be kept or changed? And do you think that study applies to our kiddos?


blackbelt said...

We made our son's Korean name his middle name and gave him an Anglo first name. We use his middle name, but if there is a time he doesn't want to do that, he has a ready option.

I'd really have to see the study about the name/delinquency thing. I can't believe it's causational.

Tiffany said...

We are getting close to TA for our daughter in China. We plan to keep her Chinese name as a middle name and give her a new first name, Hannah. "And you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, 'Forsaken' nor to your land 'desolate'; But you will be called, 'My delight is in her.'" Isaiah 62:2-4 As Christians we recognize the significance of adoption so clearly. God adopted us as sons and gave us a new name. We are going to do the same.

Thanks for sharing your life with us through this blog. If you'd like to follow our journey, our blog is hannahshan.blogspot.com.


Monica Stutzman said...

In the book "freakanomics" (which I recommend) he studies delinquent behavior and name relationships. His findings are that people who give their children wierd names don't generally have the highest IQ or parental interest and really that's what leads to the behavior--this is a really big generalization of his study but I found it to be very interesting.

Ehara O'hana said...

We adopted our second child in Oregon at birth. His birthparents named him, though we did have a name picked out. We saw the name they carefully chose for him as a gift from them that he would have forever. However I completely understand the complications of having a name that is hard to pronounce or that labels a child as different. I like the idea of keeping the name as a middle name.

Lisa, Bill and XingXing said...

I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for articles on keeping internationally adopted children's name for first name. We were "advised" not to keep it as our daughter's first name but as a middle name. However, we use the cn 99% of the time, so we have decided to change it to her legal first name when we get her American birth certificate. It feels right for us. Most people are able to pronounce it correctly after the first time. Her American name is Coral and it's mispronounced all the time.

Ansley said...

Oh man, I guess my kids are in trouble, huh?

I'd like to see the study about names, too. It's interesting what Monica said about Freakanomics. It seems to me a lot highly intelligent people name their kids different names, as well. I wonder how parents of adove average intelligence would fot into the study.

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