Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Millennial namers: "Selfish" or not?

Continuing my analysis of baby name trends and how Strauss and Howe’s generational theory relates to them, I discovered that there is an idea on how each archetype tends to name their children (and this might extend to other areas of parenting as well).

Prophet: Do what is best for me.
Nomad: Do what is best for the child.
Hero: Do what is best for society (at large).
Artist: Do what is best for the family (ancestors).

Of course these are very broad generalizations, but if you analyze the data you can see some general trends. Another thing that supports this theory is it has been mentioned at S&H's forums (I don't have the specific post(s) immediately available to link to) that Nomads overall tend to have better intergenerational relationships with those younger rather than older than them, while for Artists it's the opposite.

Today’s older parents (members of Generation X, the most recent Nomad generation) grew up in an era when children were often neglected and left to do on their own, so they are trying to do the opposite to their children (protecting them, sometimes too much). Therefore their general attitude towards naming has been centered on the child him/herself (rather than the parent, society in general, or the family).

Today’s younger parents (Millennials, members of the most recent Hero generation) are more civic-minded than their predecessors (or any generation since the G.I.s for that matter), and thus they think more in terms of what is best for society at large. This can be witnessed in the change of attitude towards unisex names for boys; older parents often say that you shouldn’t use such names because they’ll cause problems for him, but more younger ones are saying that you should go ahead and use them so they will not become “feminized” forever (as what has happened to numerous “unisex” names already). Xers often think that the parents are being “selfish” when doing that, but they are really anything but selfish because they’re trying to stop the depleting of the male name pool. The ones who tend to be the most selfish about naming would probably be the Prophets, who tend to be the most self-centered of all the generations (the last Prophet generation [the Boomers] are pretty much beyond the age of giving birth).

In addition, the more outer-focused attitude of Millennials is also helping to slow down the abandonment of boy’s names to the girls. Think about it: Compared to young Xers 20 years ago today’s youth are more likely to be conscious about protecting the environment rather that “me” coming first. Millennials also understand the power of voting; one of the reasons why young Xers often stayed away from the polls is that they did not think that “their” vote mattered, but Millennials understand the power of their collective vote. Back on the subject of naming, the same philosophy applies to the unisex name issue; 20 years ago parents thinking of just their kids and themselves would often turn away from a “girlified” name for a boy to avoid “problems” for him. Today’s parents are starting to change, understanding that abandoning such names makes it worse by shrinking the male name pool and (collectively) thus are starting to not let that be as much of a factor and help keep said names in circulation for boys.

My prediction of how Artist generations would name (such as 20-40 years from now when the Homelanders [the Artist generation currently being born] become the predominant generation of parents of babies) is that being conformist during their youth they would tend more towards pleasing their ancestors’ wishes in naming (as opposed to Nomads who would look down the family tree towards the children). This might result in a stronger trend of keeping “family names” alive. A piece of advice for Xers and Millennials naming Homelanders: Don’t be afraid to use something a bit unusual but still on the “normal” side (and for fathers that want to break a Junior, III, etc. tradition this is the time to do it); that way the pressure on them to continue the name on won’t be quite as strong (this advice especially applies to boys as the pressure to keep family names going is typically stronger for them).

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