New research has revealed that matronymns are rare and that family naming trends follow a regional pattern in the United States.
According to the study, Americans with a relatively high emphasis on honor are more likely to use patronyms, especially in the face of a terrorist threat.
Ryan Brown of the University of Oklahoma said that studying naming trends can be a subtle means of peering into a society’s beliefs and values without ever having to ask people to report directly about their beliefs and values.
Brown said that for men in a typical honor culture, the kind of reputation that is highly prized is a reputation for toughness and bravery, whereas for women in a typical honor culture, the most valued reputation is a reputation for loyalty and sexual purity.
In the study of US name trends, the researchers used Social Security Administration data to identify the 10 most popular boy and girl names in each state in 1960, 1984, and 2008.
The idea of the study was to look at 24-year cycles to see how frequently the same names popped up one and two generations later and then to compare it to regional trends of honor beliefs, controlling for a variety of other regional differences and demographics.
The study showed that states in the South and West tended to have higher patronym scores than did states in the North and those same states ranked higher in indicators of honor ideology, such as execution rates, Army recruitment levels, and suicide rates among White men and women.
The study revealed that after 9/11, the use of patronyms increased in culture-of-honor states, and similarly, people who were asked to think about a fictitious terrorist attack were more likely to say they’d use patronyms if they also strongly endorsed honor ideology
The study has been published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.