How Names Play a Role in (Lifelong and) Childhood Anxiety: Part 2

name2A boy named Sue may have it bad, but a boy named Stress Ball Billy could have it even worse. That’s because names play a role in the development of a person’s self-concept and can even contribute to anxiety and other mental disorders. You received a rundown on the issues of desirable versus undesirable names in part one of our examination of How Names Play a Role in Lifelong and Childhood Anxiety. Now it’s time to look at what can happen when children receive certain names that are:

  • Bizarre
  • Family oriented for the wrong reasons
  • A passing fad

Hi, My Name is Apple… 

Children with names like Apple, Moxie Crime Fighter and Audio Science – which are real names some celebs gave their children, by the way – may be up for as tough a road as Stress Ball Billy. Because these particular children have celebrity parents, they may have it a bit easier than other children, but it certainly won’t be because of their names.

Other highly unusual celebrity baby names pointed out by include:

  • Kal-El (Nicholas Cage)
  • Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee)
  • Speck Wildhorse (John Mellencamp)
  • Tu Morrow (Rob Morrow)

For the record, the aforementioned Apple is Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Moxie Crime Fighter is Penn Jillette’s daughter and Audio Science is the child of Shannyn Sossamon.

Celebrity parents or not, children with such strange names are wont to ridicule and unwanted attention. Behind the Name writer and researcher H. Edward Deluzain reports they are also likely to develop personality difficulties.

“In light of the important link between names and self-concept, it’s not surprising that investigators have found relationships between names and the tendency toward mental illness,” Deluzain says. He examined four separate studies where “researchers found decided tendencies toward psychosis and neurosis among people with unusual and uncommon first names.”

Bizarre names can also be a sign that, well, the parents have their own psychological issues. Perhaps the parents resent the unwanted financial strain a child may present and subconsciously go for a bizarre name as the first layer of punishment a child can expect to receive throughout his or her entire life.

“It may well be that peculiar names, which are likely to cause other children to poke fun, are actually unconscious messages from the parents that the children are peculiar and deserving of ridicule,” Deluzain writes.


Two other theories behind bizarre names come from American Name Society writer Myron Brender. He says parents who opt for bizarre names can be of the whimsical nature, like the parents who named their child Truck Stop because he was born in one. That same whimsy, however, may also simply be a lack of imagination, such as the parents who named their child Truck Stop because he was born in one.

Meet John, Sr., John, Jr. and John III

While naming a child after a relative may be an honorable gesture, Brender notes the gesture may have an ulterior motive. One may be hoping to get some money from the namesake’s will if the relative happens to be wealthy. Another is a parent’s fear of being rejected by their own parents unless they give their baby with the same name as grandma or grandpa.

Sometimes the namesakes are even more closely related, such as the son who shares the same name as is father with a “Jr.” tacked on at the end. This can result in difficulties for the son who may find it tough to establish an identity of his very own.

When Names are a Passing Fad 

Thank goodness the 1980s neon fashion fad came and went, looking pretty silly in hindsight. The same thing can happen when parents opt to name their babies the latest fad name du jour. Most fad names come from popular celebrities of the moment, like the rash of new babies named Shirley that were born when Shirley Temple was in her heyday.

Bender says parents can fall prey to fad names if they fear social rejection for not following the cultural tide, lack confidence in their own abilities to choose a suitable name or are simply pretty lame when it comes to originality.

Fad names can easily date people, which may be an issue down the line if folks want to conceal their age. They may also be such a big fad that a classroom ends up with five Shirleys or 22 Baracks. The New York Times reported a surge in the name Barack when President Obama was voted in for his first term in 2008.

Such children don’t necessarily lose their identity the same way a “Jr.” might, but they are singled out as different since teachers typically have to use both the child’s first and last name to differentiate him or her from the other 21 Baracks or other four Shirleys. Being singled out as different in any way can wreak havoc on a child’s self-esteem and perceived peer acceptance.

When it comes to naming a baby, there may be a lot more at stake than we originally realized. But a name is certainly not the bottom line on what type of person a child will grow up to be or if childhood anxiety or other mental health issues will be a factor. A name is only part of the equation. The others, of course, are a loving home, plenty of support, a healthy lifestyle and upbringing. And there’s still no harm in totally avoiding giving your child a name like Stress Ball Billy.


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