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Why parents mix up their kids' names

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SATURDAY, Jan. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Parents are more likely to confuse their children's names when they sound alike, a new study reveals.

Researchers conducted surveys with 334 people who had one or more siblings. They were asked about similarities in appearance and personality with their siblings, and how often their parents confused their names.

People whose names shared initial (Jamie/Jason) or final (Amanda/Samantha) sounds with a sibling's name reported that their parents called them by the wrong name more often than those without such sound overlaps.

This was especially true among younger siblings who were the same gender and close to the same age, according to the study, published online recently in the journal PLoS One.

Some respondents said they were often called by names of other family members, while others said they were called by the name of the family pet. This shows how social and situational factors can affect parents when they want to use a child's name, said Zenzi Griffin, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

For example, a mother is standing in her kitchen and wants to call her child to come for breakfast. The last time she stood in the kitchen and called someone to eat it was Fido, the dog. Due to the similarity of the situation and the use of similar words, she may say "come to breakfast, Fido" when calling to her child, Griffin explained.

"It is tempting to attribute such mistakes to the animals' status as family members and child-substitutes," she said in a university news release. "However, it seems unlikely that parents would make such errors so readily if they were labeling family members in photographs."

The study findings show that when parents confuse children's names, it's likely due to a quirk in the brain's information-retrieval process and should not be cause for concern.

"Because name substitutions are increased by factors like name similarity and physical similarity, they should not be seen as purely Freudian or reflecting preferences for one child over another," Griffin said. "In other words, people shouldn't read too much into the errors."

More information

The Social Security Administration enables you to look at the popularity of baby names in different years.

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