Is not naming a baby “emotionally harmful”?

Days ago, a UK judge ruled that a 5-month-old boy should be taken away from his parents in part because he had no first name:

“His father has refused to give him a name,” said Mrs Justice Parker in her ruling.

“I think ideally the mother independently would not have taken that view.”

The judge said the boy was starting to acquire language, and added: “Every child needs a name.”

She went on: “I truly think that it is emotionally harmful not to give a child a name.”

A century ago, it was common for parents to wait weeks, months, sometimes years before naming a baby. A handful of people (like Tifft and Gatewood) went their entire lives without a given name.

While most parents today name their babies soon after birth, some still choose to wait. Ben Harper and Laura Dern didn’t name their daughter Jaya until she was 3 months old. Picabo Street’s name wasn’t official until she was 3.

Do you agree or disagree with Mrs Justice Parker that it is “emotionally harmful not to give a child a name”? If your answer depends upon the age of the child, at what age do you think namelessness become dangerous?

P.S. “Mrs Justice” is the judge’s title. I couldn’t track down her given name.

Source: Child with no name must be adopted, judge rules (found via Twitter, thanks to Anna of Waltzing More Than Matilda)

5 thoughts on “Is not naming a baby “emotionally harmful”?

  1. I don’t think a blanket rule covers all possible forms of namelessness. If you live in a culture where names are given in toddlerhood or later, you suffer no harm from being a nameless infant. If, on the other hand, you go unnamed as a mark of disfavor when your siblings and peers are given names at birth, that probably rises to the level of abuse. All depends on the situation. It certainly is emotionally harmful to remove a baby from his parents, though, so I sure hope that the judge had compelling evidence that the namelessness was abusive, rather than either cultural or merely eccentric.

  2. I think the namelessness was just one reason the child was removed, which the magistrate was obviously distressed about doing as they were loving parents.

    Basically the mother, who had a learning disability, was perceived as needing outside help, and the father was angry and aggressive at this outside control, which he saw as unnecessary. Not naming the child seems to have been his way of trying to gain control of his family, and to make some kind of statement of resistance. So I guess the namelessness was seen as a symptom of an overall problem.

    Hopefully this mess can be resolved, and the baby returned.

    (Actually not long ago in Australia a child was removed from its parents because its name hadn’t been registered, but in this case it was definitely part of long-term deliberate abuse and neglect – the lack of name wasn’t the real problem).

  3. My mother was named after her father’s two sisters, using their middle names. However, when my mother was born Aunt Connie was working in China. No one had ever called her anything but Connie but that wasn’t her first or middle name, rather it was a nickname based on their last name. No one in the family could remember if she was Margaret Frances or Frances Margaret, or find her birth records, so they had to wait until the postal service could deliver the letters back and forth.
    Consequently my mother had no name for her birth certificate until she was about 4 months old.
    By the time the official name was sorted out my grandfather had already nicknamed her Toni after the prizefighter Tony Galento. Like her Aunt Connie, my mother ended up using her nickname rather than her legal name throughout her life.

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