Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
8 Indicators of Parental Concern: Naming and Replacement
Indicators of Parental Concern
Naming and Replacement
In October 2011, 220 Indian girls chose new names after shedding given names that meant “unwanted” in Hindi. Names like “Nakusa” blight the self-worth of many young girls in India named by parents or grandparents disappointed by the birth of a daughter. Names, so integral to one’s identity, is a confirmation of one’s existence as well as an indicator of parents’ expectations. The value Indian parents place on girls is not only reflected in the names given to their daughters, but in the gender ratio; there are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys. This disparity is due to selective infanticide and abandonment.1
Naming practices differ among various cultures and across time periods. At times, naming may reflect the state of childhood survival in a region. In the case of Indian girls, the naming of infants and children might reflect the values of the culture with respect to the importance of gender or lineage (e.g., the denial of a family name to a child born outside the bounds of marriage). Use of biblical names, or adaptations of male names for females (e.g., changing Samuel to Samantha), and names used to reflect expectations of positive personal attributes such as courage ← 105 | 106 → or intelligence are also indicators of cultural ideals. In some societies children are named after grandparents because it is believed that associating a name with a soul facilitates the reincarnation of...
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