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Title: Parents Choosing More Unusual Baby Names Now
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Celebrities aren't the only ones giving their babies unusual names. Compared with decades ago, parents are choosing less common names f...

Celebrities aren't the only ones giving their babies unusual
names. Compared with decades ago, parents are choosing less common names for
kids, which could suggest an emphasis on uniqueness and individualism, according
to new research.

Essentially, today's kids (and later adults) will stand out
from classmates. For instance, in the 1950s, the average first-grade class of
30 children would have had at least one boy named James (top name in 1950),
while in 2013, six classes will be necessary to find only one Jacob, even
though that was the most common boys' name in 2007.

The researchers suspect the uptick of unusual baby names
could be a sign of a change in culture from one that applauded fitting in to
today's emphasis on being unique and standing out. When taken too far, however,
this individualism could also lead to narcissism, according to study researcher
Jean Twenge, of San Diego State University.

Baby naming history

The results come from an analysis of 325 million baby names
recorded by the Social Security Administration from 1880 to 2007. The research
team figured out the percentage of babies given the most
popular name or a name among the 10, 20, or 50 most popular for that year and
sex. Since it wasn't required that people get a social security card until
1937, names before that time may not be random samples of the population, the
researchers note.

Results showed parents were less likely to choose those
popular names as time went on. For instance, in the late 1800s and early 1900s,
about 5 percent of babies were named the top common name, while more recently
that dropped to 1 percent.

  • About 40 percent of boys received one of the 10
    most common names in the 1880s, while now fewer than 10 percent do.

  • For girls, the percentage with a top-10 name
    dropped from 25 percent in about 1945 to 8 percent in 2007.

  • Similar results were seen for the top-50 names.
    About half of girls received one of the 50 most popular names until the
    mid-20th century. Now, just one in four have these names.

(A list of top-10 baby names by year, and their popularity, can be found here.)

This trend in baby-naming didn't show a constant decrease.
Between 1880 and 1919, fewer parents were giving their children common names,
though from 1920 to the 1940s common names were used more often than before.
Then, when baby
came on the scene, so did more unusual names.

The biggest decrease in usage of common names came in the
1990s, said Twenge, who is also an author of "The Narcissism Epidemic:
Living in the Age of Entitlement" (Free Press, 2009) and "Generation
Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and
More Miserable Than Ever Before" (Free Press, 2007).

Naming narcissists

The results held even when the researchers accounted for
immigration rates and increasing Latino populations, which could bring
relatively less common names into the mix.

"The most compelling explanation left is this idea that
parents are much more focused on their children standing out," Twenge told
LiveScience. "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."

The positive side of individualism, Twenge said, is that
there is less prejudice and more tolerance for minority groups. But she warns
that when individualism is taken too far, the result is narcissism.

"I think it is an indication of our culture becoming
more narcissistic," Twenge said.

Past research has shown that back in the 1950s parents
placed a lot of importance on a child being obedient, which has gone way down.
"Parenting has become more permissive and more child-focused and [parents]
are much more reluctant to be authority figures," Twenge said.

As for whether these unusually named kids will have
personalities to match is not known.

"It remains to be seen whether having a unique name
necessarily leads to narcissism later in life," Twenge said. "If that
unique name is part of a parent's overall philosophy that their child is
special and needs to stand out and that fitting in is a bad thing, then that
could lead to those personality traits."

The research, which is detailed in the January issue of the
journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, also included Emodish M.
Abebe of SDSU and W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia in Athens.

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