What’s in a name? Not much, according to Shakespeare, who waxed lyrical about the label attaching to a woody perennial of the genus
Rosa being less important than the object itself.
The paper in question was the culmination of research by Dr Deborah Dempsey and Lara Hulbert Mainka (both of Swinburne University of Technology), and Dr Jo Lindsay (
). They presented their results to an Australian Monash University conference. Institute of Family Studies
According to an article in The Age on the study, the results suggest that in many quarters old-fashioned and patriarchal views prevail: women tend change their family name to that of their husband; children tend to take their father’s family name.
The researchers’ conclusions were drawn from a mixed-method study of three data sources:
1. records obtained from the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages between 2005 and 2010;
2. the results of an anonymous online survey of 908 Australian participants, and
3. in-depth telephone interviews with approximately 45 survey participants.
Their study revealed the following trends for families in the State of
· men in a relationship rarely changed their family name – 97% of those sampled had retained theirs;
· women were far more likely to change their family name and, when they did, generally assumed their partners’.
More than half of the married women in the sample group had changed their family name. Of those, 96% had taken their husband’s family name;
· what was the norm in the family name stakes depended on the relationship: it was normative for married heterosexual couples to have the same family name.
However, it was normative for same-sex couples to have different surnames.
Interviewed on her findings, Dr Dempsey anticipated that the overall proportion of women who had assumed their husbands’ family name might be significantly higher than results suggested – somewhere in the region of 80% to 95%. This was because her sample group had been highly educated. Similar research conducted in the
US and suggested educated women were less likely to change their family name than the population generally. Norway
Giving children hyphenated or double-barrelled family names was less popular (only 2.4% per cent of children). However, while heterosexual couples were not keen on using these names, same-sex parents had embraced them. It was also more popular for same-sex couples to create an altogether new family name.
''I was surprised at how visceral the bond I had with him was, and it ameliorated any fear I had that my connection with him might be diminished because he wouldn't share my name.''
A full results summary from the Victorian study will be published shortly on the project website.