Foster children who decide to be called by a new first name: links to extreme defences, identity and attachment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This case-based study describes three foster children in the US, who decided to be called by a new first name at a time when hopes of reunification were fading and parental rights were being terminated. Two children decided on their own to be called by a different first name. The third child accepted the idea, which was suggested by her foster mother. Children embraced the name changes because they felt lost and wanted to fit in. For two children, the decision represented an extreme defence. With the name change, the children were able to ward off extreme anxiety and pain set in train by the impending decision about termination, but they also cut themselves off prematurely from their identities and from powerful attachment feelings. Encouraged in therapy to talk about feelings and memories associated with her real name, the third child was better able to integrate past and present, and to move forward. A sudden decision on the part of a foster child to be called by a new first name should alert others to the possible precarious state of the child’s sense of identity and attachment relationships. Helping the child in therapy to access, explore and experience feelings about the name change may have important benefits in integration and help to avoid identity foreclosure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-351
Number of pages13
JournalAdoption and Fostering
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

Keywords

  • Names
  • attachment
  • defences
  • foster children
  • identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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