General Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Why are kids given their father's surname?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) April 9th, 2009

Yesterday my son asked me why kids are given their father’s last name and not their mother’s name. Can the collective help me give him an answer?

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28 Answers

Likeradar's avatar

I assume it’s because traditionally the wife takes her husband’s name. Giving it to the kids also makes the family all clearly part of the same clan.

laureth's avatar

In the old days, after the wife was transferred from her father’s ownership to her husband’s, both she and any children she bore were his property.

gimmedat's avatar

My hubby has a much cooler surname than mine was, so in my case, it’s all good. And, it’s a reflection of their ethnic heritage. To look at them one would never guess they are of Hispanic origin, so the surname gets people thinking…especially college recruiters who look at the high school track star who will bump up Hispanic enrollment. Ooohh yeah, let’s hear it for diversity!!

tinyfaery's avatar


Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@laureth hence why it’s a problem
and people not seeing this as a problem really bothers me

FGS's avatar

Because it names a child as an heir.

SuperMouse's avatar

@gimmedat, I guess you are right, no one would ever know my kids were polish if not for the name.

SeventhSense's avatar

Because men rule the world.

gimmedat's avatar

@SuperMouse who knows, maybe someday that ridiculously Polish sounding last name will land one of the boys a high paying job or the promotion that he seeks. It’s all about context. There’s positivity in everything, it’s up to you to find it!

westy81585's avatar

It’s a culture thing. There are actually cultures in the world where the children take their mothers name (and even the husbands when married). In Italy for example.

AstroChuck's avatar

Because it’s always been a man’s world. Remember, women only got the vote 90 years ago.

AstroChuck's avatar

What did I say? I didn’t say it should be that way. I’m no chauvinist.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

no I know
I was joking

AstroChuck's avatar

Don’t lie to me. You wanna start something!

RedPowerLady's avatar

It really is about culture and patriarchy. Many cultures don’t follow the same guidelines. It isn’t a pretty reasoning and you will likely need to spice it up for your son especially if he is young.

I might tell a child that: ” Well honey every culture does it differently, so in some places the children take the mothers name and in others they take both names. It is different everywhere. Here kids get their dads name because a long time ago someone decided that is how it was supposed to be.” I’d probably leave it at that. If they persist for more information like “why did they decide that?”. Then I might say:
“I think they decided that because at that time women didn’t have equal rights as men. Men were the ones in charge of keeping things in their name. Things were very different, and it was important for the men to keep everything in their name. Not only their children but also their wife, their land, their business, everything. Of course today that reason doesn’t make sense because we are all equal and can keep things in whatever name we want. But it is just left over from history.”

Bagardbilla's avatar

This is interesting to me, because being raised in a Muslim home half way around the world, one would think it would be the norm that women were property and took their husbands name…
Of course I’m only speaking of my immidiate and extended family here, but neither my mother nor any of her sisters ever took their husbands last names. Their properties, assets, their families’ assets are all owned and controlled by them… What was my fathers is in his name what was/is my mother’s is in her name. The children took their fathers name to identify which family they came from… just as my mother still has her father’s name identifying her liniage…
Islam gave women rights to own property and divorce men 1400 hundred yrs ago, yet only recently with westernizing influence, “liberated” women in developing countries have started to take on their husbands last names, a practice considered to be from a more repressed time, (atleast here).
I guess sometimes we not only export our traditions of ‘freedoms’ but also those deeply rooted in oppression, without ever realizing it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree, back in the day, Islam was, comparably, more liberating for women
but it no longer is, as so much of it has been extremised (that’s not a word, I know) and in response to the west’s oppression, there’s more sexism as a result

YARNLADY's avatar

It takes a long time for society to make changes. Actually, you can give your child any last name you want, in the US, but it is hard to go against the tradition.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@YARNLADY Actually, you can give your child any last name you want, in the US

Good point!

Judi's avatar

I gave my oldest daughter my maiden name when she was born. Her father was upset, but then again, the total amount of Child support he ended up paying her entire life was about $500.00 and he saw her maybe 3 times and I initiated all of them on my daughters behalf. It really wouldn’t have made sense to give her the name of a man she didn’t know. I did however, always give her a choice of what name she went by. She chose mine, then my first husbands (who died) then my second husbands. She never chose her biological fathers.

Bagardbilla's avatar

@simone de baeuvoir
I totally disagree!!!
Unfortunetly the view you espouse is not based on reality!
It’s a view the uninformed, anti-Islamic, bigoted media proprigates for at the very least sensationalistic reasons, and at worst, for the raciest/bigoted reasons to wrongly associate Islam with terrorism!
Yes there are extermist in Islam, as in any religion, but they DO NOT speak for ALL Muslims! let alone for the religion of ISLAM! The largest population of extriemist is in Pakistan, yet they numbered less then 5% in the last election, and even lesser so in any of the other Muslim countries.
If I were to ask which country has the highest Muslim population, not many Fluthers would guess it’s India! and I would go out on the limb and say even a lesser percentage of Americans (than Fluthers) would get that right. Point being that there is a major disconnect between the reality and what the media proprigates. What happens in Saudi Arabia and Iran does not represent Muslims or for that matter Islam!
One CANNOT blame and nullify an entire Religion based on how some of it’s followers misrepresent it!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

wait, what? i agree with all that you say

Bagardbilla's avatar

@s de b
Maybe I misundersood where you said that Islam was liberating, “but it no longer is, as so much of it has been extremised”.
What I’m saying is that it has not been “extremised”, it never was extreme and frankly can never really be, because it is against the basic tenents of Islam.
Again, sorry if I misunderstood you. :(

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

first of all I don’t learn about Islam from the Media…my best friend of 7 years is Muslim as are many of my friends, all of different beliefs from following everything properly to think about certain reconstructions…as a result I’ve always been interested in the religion and the politics surrounding it…I think all religions of the book are sexist, inherently, hence I’m against them all but Islam, as I’ve said is one least so but you can’t argue that the way it’s been implemented in certain places is not the way it was intended…and the reasons are complex and stem from colonialism and as I’ve said west’s oppression of the middle east leading to extremist reactions…in response to ‘liberal democracy’, there’s this kind of ‘hardcore’ reading of the Qu’ran that doesn’t allow for flexibility…for example Sharia laws are being implemented more and more and the reading of the laws is literal when it’s supposed to be open to interpretation

Bagardbilla's avatar

@a de b
Yes there are slightly different interpretations of Islam as well as Sharia Law. The reason is that both are inherently flexible. That’s why there is no clergy in Islam! No one to dictate to the masses what they should believe… or be an intercediary between a believer and his God.
As for Sharia law, it very much like like our constitution in the sense that there are basic tennents interpreted by the prophet Mohammad, and then built upon by opinions of Sharia scholers, very much like our legal system where we have the constitution, but then all subsequent cases and opinions of scholars, lawyers, judges, and finally the supreme court are used to interpreate the law. The resson for this is ofcourse the same in both societies, that as societies evolve and change, so do their laws to REFLECT THEM and not those of the outsiders! So… there may be slightly different interpretations but they are based on a legal system that is dynamic and ever changing due to a viberent evolving system.
As I write this I’m listening to “Bob Edwards weekend”, the story is about Dominique Green, who was exicuted in Texes and thought to be innocent, because of differences in death penelty laws from the rest of the country! So different interpretations are not just the domaine of Sharia Law.
Thanks for your thoughful comments and again I’m sorry for mis-interpreting your earlier post. :(

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