June 09, 2011 Practice Points

The Name Change Dilemma

By Sara Dionne

A recent posting in the Wall Street Journal’s blog, The Juggle, explores women’s decisions with regard to taking their husband’s names after marriage. The May 8, 2011 post, “The Name Change Dilemma,” by Sue Shellenbarger, notes that approximately 18 percent of married women kept their maiden name in the 2000s, a reduction from a peak of approximately 23 percent in the 1990s. A 2009 study published in Social Behavior and Personality found a correlation between occupations and education with the likelihood of a woman keeping her maiden name. Specifically, as noted in the post, “[w]ell-educated women in high-earning occupations are significantly more likely to keep their maiden names.” Another study published in 2010 found that age also affects the likelihood that a woman will keep her maiden name. In fact, the study found that women who married between the ages of 35 to 39 were 6.4 times more likely to keep their names than women who married between the ages of 20 and 24.

The post also examines a recent Dutch study published in Basic and Applied Psychology, which examines how a woman’s decision to keep her maiden name may affect how others perceive her abilities. According to the study’s findings, women introduced with the same last name as their husbands were perceived as more caring, dependent, and emotional, whereas those introduced with a different last name were viewed as smarter and more ambitious.

Read the full post here. Refer to the 20092010 and Dutch studies referenced above here.

Keywords: women, name change, maiden name

Sara Dionne works at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in Sacramento, California.

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