Marriage Mayhem: Do I Change My Name?

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"I believe that tracing family lines is somewhat important and always going with the paternal name makes tracing easier," according to Nitzschmann, who said it's important for children to share the same name as their parents.

Some of the judgment that accompanies a woman's decision to name-change is reflected in a recent survey at Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research in the Netherlands.

Researchers have suggested that women who change their name at marriage make nearly $400,000 less during their lifetimes than women who do not. They were judged by others as older, less educated and unmotivated compared to those who kept their own names -- even if they were the same age and background, according to a 2010 study in in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

Those who took a husband's name were viewed as "more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional, less competent, and less ambitious in comparison with a woman who kept her own name."

Women who kept their maiden names were seen as "less caring, more independent, more ambitious, more intelligent, and more competent."

Many women keep their maiden names as a mark of independence. Still, an overwhelming 90 percent of all brides drop their surnames, according to the Lucy Stone League, named for a woman who refused to take her husband's name in 1855.

The arguments in favor of changing are that life is generally easier, both psychologically and practically, when all family members have the same name -- traveling internationally, registering in schools and even dealing with other parents. Monograms for towels are simpler.

If you have a bad last name, a new name can repair that -- or not. This writer was acquainted with two friends who abandoned perfectly good maiden names for these married ones: Judy Foody and Dolly Jolly.

"I just like the way my name sounds with my fiance's last name," said Gillian Grissom, soon to be Gillian Locke. "It's only one syllable, which I think sounds nice with a three-syllable first name."

"I was a little surprised that the feminist in me didn't speak up any louder than it did," said the 25-year-old from Dallas, Texas. "But I don't feel like the feminist part of me is really getting compromised by changing over names. Taking a new name feels more like a milestone than a loss of identity."

But for Mary E. Mendoza, who grew up in Texas, the daughter of Mexican-Americans, identity is everything.

"For me, keeping my name is important and I have decided that I won't ever change it," said Mendoza, a 27-year-old Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of California-Davis. "First, it reminds me of where I come from and I share it with my grandmother. Changing it feels like it would take that away. Third, because I plan to publish, I don't want any changes confusing people as I try to make a career for myself."

Find Your Own Family Name, Say Flowerhead?

In a growing trend here and abroad, some couples are creating new identities.

In Sweden, the government gets more than 7,000 requests a year for name changes, including newlyweds who want to create unique names for their families, according to a recent report in the New York Times..

One couple, Sofia Jonsson and Karl Andersson, both of whom had common Swedish names, changed to Wetterlund, which was her grandmother's maiden name. Others adopt English-sounding names like Swedenrose or Flowerland.

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