Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Donald Sacco

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Lucas Keefer

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School



In many cultures, the tradition of women adopting their husband’s surname is long-standing. This behavior became an established custom with English women around the 11th and 12th centuries (Embleton and King, 1984). In the United States, this practice was inherited from English common law, wherein a wife’s legal identity was considered tied to that of her husband’s. Despite the pervasiveness of such customs in naming conventions in Western cultures, recent social movements intended to foster greater parity between the sexes have led many women to defy this tradition and legally keep their own surname following marriage (MacClintock, 2010). In fact, a recent survey found that 20% of women in the United States are now retaining their own surname in some form (Google Consumer Surveys, 2012). As with any shift in a cultural norm, there has been pushback from society for those women violating these naming conventions. Individuals who violate gender norms are viewed more negatively than those who adhere to them (e.g., Koenig, 2018), with recent evidence suggesting similar evaluations emerging for women who retain their surnames as poor relationship partners (Drea, Brown, & Sacco, under review; Robnett, Underwood, Nelson, & Anderson, 2016).

Another historically important norm for women, in addition to men, is desiring children after marriage, a convention oft considered expected of couples. Much like with violating naming conventions, women who decide not to have children are indeed evaluated unfavorably (Bays, 2017). Although a woman keeping her surname is a violation of a gender norm, she may be able to mitigate negative perceptions from others by adhering to another historically important norm of desiring children after marriage, given the seeming moral imperative to have children (Ashburn-Nardo, 2017). The current study seeks to identify how negative perceptions of women (and to a lesser extent men) fueled by violation of one gender norm (e.g., surname conventions)