The Age (Australia) 20 July 2012
Getting married any time soon? If you are a Victorian woman, chances are you’ll be changing your surname to your husband’s. Planning on having a baby? Chances are the child will take on dad’s name, too. For the first time, new research on last names has been collected – helping to shed light on the way contemporary heterosexual and same-sex parents choose their last names. Inspired partly by a controversial opinion piece in 2007 by then Age columnist Catherine Deveny, Swinburne University of Technology senior lecturer in sociology Deborah Dempsey set out to track trends in this barely touched area of research. Her paper, to be presented at an Australian Institute of Family Studies conference next week, found that sharing the husband’s surname after marriage was the norm. As part of their research Dr Dempsey and co-author Jo Lindsay, of Monash University, used records from the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages between 2005 and 2010. They also conducted an anonymous online survey of 908 Australian parents.
While Dr Dempsey could not get official numbers on exactly how many Victorians changed their surname after marriage (there is no requirement to register a new married name), the survey found more than half of married women assumed their partner’s surname. As the survey was from a highly educated sample (overseas research suggests educated women are less likely to change their surnames), Dr Dempsey believes the overall figure to be closer to Norway and the United States, where between 80 and 95 per cent of women assume their husband’s name. The study also revealed that men rarely change their surnames (about 97 per cent of men surveyed kept their last name after marriage). It found that 55 per cent of Victorian children have parents with the same surname, and according to Dr Dempsey’s research, this surname is likely to be the dad’s name in most cases. An additional 35 per cent of children have their father’s surname when their mother’s surname is different to his.
….Only 3 per cent of children with a named father have their mother’s surname.
…Giving children hyphenated or double-barrelled surnames was less popular (only 2.4 per cent of children).