How much does a baby’s name impact their future? As Noah and Olivia most popular

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How Much Does A Baby’s Name Impact Their Future? As Noah And Olivia Most Popular How Much Does A Baby’s Name Impact Their Future? As Noah And Olivia Most Popular
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By Imy Brighty-Potts, PA

Choosing a name for your child is a huge decision, and understandably, many parents-to-be want to pick something that feels unique – but what role does a name really play in our lives?

Noah and Olivia have been revealed as the most popular names for boys and girls in 2021, according to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). After eight years at the top of boys’ names, Oliver is now second, followed by George in third. While Freya, Florence and Willow replaced Isabella, Rosie and Sophia in the top 10 for girls, and Amelia and Isla remain popular, in second and third respectively.

The way we name our kids is changing in line with cultural trends and film releases too – and the latest official list of the top 100 includes Luca (from the Pixar film of the same name), Kylo (from Star Wars) and Mabel (the singer). But with so much content coming all the time, names may only be trendy for a brief period.

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So, what’s in a name, and most importantly, how much relevance does a name play in identity as children grow?

A name isn’t as crucial as the environment it’s used in

Clinical psychologist Dr Claire Halsey, who works with Triple P Positive Parenting Program Parenting (triplep.uk.net) and is expert in child development and child psychology, says: “It is important to think carefully about the name and [parents] may spend lots of time finding something meaningful.

“But it isn’t actually about the name – except in exceptional circumstances where there is a really unusual name. The most important thing is actually the family environment – it’s more important to focus on the parent-child bond.”

She adds: “Loving nicknames may be more significant – some may be embarrassing and make a child feel insecure.”

Dr Seb Thompson, consultant clinical psychologist at Cygnet Health Care (cygnethealth.co.uk), says names do play some role in identity – but it certainly isn’t the only factor.

A sense of self goes beyond a baby’s name (Alamy/PA)

“I think that names matter to some extent because it is how that person will ultimately identify, but what probably matters a lot more to their sense of identity and wellbeing is if they are given a good environment to grow and flourish,” he says.

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“Two people with the same names but different upbringings will turn out differently because it is about nurturing no matter the name.”

Self-worth and identity aren’t decided by external factors

Much of a child’s self-knowledge should come from within them, but names do come with implications.

“How people know you and how you refer to yourself will come with positive and negative associations,” says Thompson. “Even if you meet someone where the associations are negative there is a chance to reform that.

“It is about creating a core, stable sense of self. Helping a child to form a solid sense of self is vital for parents because they are the main attachment figure.”

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The risk of being singled-out, or lost in the crowd

It can be difficult to know what names could potentially cause your child problems in the future, but it can help to research or talk to other people about any negative connotations you might not have spotted before.

“My children are called Noah and Oscar, I think they were names that we would be comfortable with using, names that had positive associations,” says Thompson. “Fundamentally for me we didn’t want a name that was going to single a child out.”

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But that may not always be a bad thing, according to Halsey. “Negative connotations to a name may lead to your child being teased but actually may allow parents to encourage their child to be more robust and manage that, helping them feel more secure.”

Many kids will have an issue with their name but they usually grow out of it (Alamy/PA)

While children with very popular names may find they are given a nickname at school to differentiate between different Olivias, Noahs or Amelias.

“Having a really common name – say there are five Jakes in a class – may cause a bit of confusion but actually they may end up being a group of Jakes which can be quite nice for feeling together,” says Halsey.

Names bind us to family

“We do see meaning in names affecting us,” she adds. “We know it has been chosen by our parents and has arrived with us in a loving and caring way. [They] may be connected to family, maybe a meaningful place for example, but even if it isn’t, we fuse with the name we have and it becomes significant.”

Ultimately, you can only do your best

You cannot predict every trial and trend that may come with a name and worry about the implications for your child. If you choose what you believe is a unique name, you need to like it enough if it later enters the top ten – or a person with the name becomes famous.

Halsey says: “Parents do the very best they can and have chosen a name with love.”

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