Open Access
Laskowski, Kara Alana
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 24, 2006
Committee Members:
  • Ronald Ward Jackson, Committee Chair
  • Michelle E Day, Committee Member
  • Lisa Shawn Hogan, Committee Member
  • Dennis Stephen Gouran, Committee Member
  • Stephanie A Shields, Committee Member
  • marital naming
  • identity
  • communication
A growing body of research in the field of communication has focused on identity, and has paralleled studies in psychology, family studies, and gender studies on the significance of women’s naming practices after marriage. However, despite the fact that nearly ten percent of married women choose to retain their name in one form or another, and the widely recognized significance of using the correct form of address, no study has attempted to describe how post-marital name retention works to communicate women’s identity. This dissertation was motivated by a desire to provide an account of women’s post-marital name retention and the communication of identity that is both theoretically grounded and representational of the native voices of women who have kept their names after marriage. The purpose of this study is to describe the how identity is symbolically communicated through women’s post marital name retention by examining the factors influencing women’s choices, the communication around the decision to retain the name, and how the nontraditional last name is present (or not) in ongoing interactions. This study used symbolic interactionism and critical feminism as orientating framework for the collection and analysis of data. Data was collected in twenty three face-to-face interviews, and was analyzed using constant comparison and thematic analysis. Findings indicate that women who retain their names after marriage expect to do so, based upon identity-related concerns of ancestry, professional status, and feminism. In addition, women who engage in nontraditional marital naming engage in ongoing communication of their choices with others whose responses range from acceptance to challenge of their choice. The findings of this study indicate that a layered theoretical approach to questions of naming and the communication is warranted in order to generate understanding of decision making, identity negotiation, meaning, and the communication of identity.