Babies Are Named for Fathers, Not Mothers, In America’s Southern and Western States Where “Honor” and “Reputation” Are Important Values

In an article published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Ryan Brown and his collaborator Mauricio Carvallo studied the connection between names and cultural values. They discovered that naming babies after fathers was a common practice in Southern and Western states while naming babies after mothers was rare either in the South and West—or anywhere else.

They discovered that strong values associated with honor and reputation are associated in the South and West with naming babies after fathers (patronyms)—but not mothers (matronyms). If there’s a tradition of patronymic naming in your family, you might want to read what Brown and Carvalllo found to explain that phenomenon:

 “For men in a typical honor culture, the kind of reputation that is highly prized is a reputation for toughness and bravery,” Ryan says. “For women in a typical honor culture, the most valued reputation is a reputation for loyalty and sexual purity.”

Brown and Carvallo also found that States in the South and West tended to have higher patronym scores than did states in the North. And those same states ranked higher in indicators of honor ideology — such as execution rates, Army recruitment levels, and suicide rates among white men and women…After 9/11, the use of patronyms increased in culture-of-honor states. And similarly, people who were asked to think about a fictitious terrorist attack were more likely to say they’d use patronyms if they also strongly endorsed honor ideology.

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