What Shall We Call Ourselves? Last Names Among Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Couples and Their Adopted Children

Charlotte J. Patterson, Rachel H. Farr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Choices of last names for both adults and children are important family decisions that are often made upon marriage or upon the birth of a child. The gendered nature of such choices among heterosexual populations is well known, but they have not been widely studied among lesbian or gay populations. We studied selection of last names among 106 adoptive families—27 headed by lesbian couples, 29 headed by gay couples, and 50 headed by heterosexual couples—all of whom had adopted children at birth or in the first weeks of life. Whether in selection of last names for adults or for children, we found that heterosexual adoptive couples were more likely than lesbian and gay adoptive couples to follow patronymic conventions. Thus, heterosexual parents and their children were most likely to have identical last names. For lesbian and gay couples, in contrast, the most common scenario was for both adults to retain last names given to them at birth and hyphenate them to create last names for their children. Parents in lesbian and gay couples offered more detailed explanations of their choices than did those in heterosexual couples. Explanations offered by heterosexual parents were most likely to refer to tradition, but those given by same-sex parents were more likely to mention egalitarian or practical considerations. Overall, we found that same-sex and other-sex couples took very different approaches to the problem of naming themselves and their children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-113
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of GLBT Family Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Adoptive families
  • adopted children
  • family names
  • lesbian and gay parents
  • surnames

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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