Featured Article - Adolescents with unpopular names more prone to committing crime

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A new study in the journal Social Science Quarterly examined the relationship between first name popularity in adolescents and tendency to commit crime. Results show that, regardless of race, juveniles with unpopular names are more likely to engage in criminal activity.

David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee of Shippensburg University analyzed state data by comparing the first names of male juvenile delinquents to the first names of male juveniles in the population.

Researchers constructed a popularity-name index (PNI) for each name. For example, the PNI for Michael is 100, the most frequently given name during the period. The PNI for David is 50, a name given half as frequently as Michael. The PNI is approximately 1 for names such as Alec, Ernest, Ivan, Kareem, and Malcolm.

The least popular names were associated with juvenile delinquency among both blacks and whites. While the names are likely not the cause of crime, they are connected to factors that increase the tendency to commit crime, such as a disadvantaged home environment, residence in a county with low socioeconomic status, and households run by one parent.

Also, adolescents with unpopular names may be more prone to crime because they are treated differently by their peers, making it more difficult for them to form relationships. Juveniles with unpopular names may also act out because they consciously or unconsciously dislike their names.

\"First name characteristics may be an important factor to help identify individuals at high risk of committing or recommitting crime, leading to more effective and targeted intervention programs,\" the authors conclude.
Um, so wait. You included the obligatory "names don't cause crime, but social factors might" statement. But then did social factors cause their disadvantaged poor single parents to give them unpopular names? What about the distribution of names in high SES areas like Princeton or the Shipley population? Nary a Mike to be found there. Are the uncommon names in my classes also causing major relationship forming disabilities?

I was going to say "Mike or Katie", but it also seems like "youth, adolescent, and juvenile" here all refer to young men. Yes, they specify the study was only conducted on male subjects in the second paragraph. The rest of the article glosses male over all adolescents, youths, and juveniles, rendering young women invisible.

This is one of those studies that makes me wonder if the author had a purpose in mind, or just had a data set available and picked a question that could be answered without further data acquisition.


Wiley-Blackwell: http://www.wiley.com/wiley-blackwell

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