Sex Roles

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 143-151

First online:

Married Women’s Situational Use of Last Names: An Empirical Study

  • Laurie K. ScheubleAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State UniversityDepartment of Sociology, 211 Oswald Tower, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Email author 
  • , David R. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University

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Situational last name use was examined in a sample of 600 married women who responded to a mail survey. The sample was selected from the faculty and staff of a state university in the Midwest with over-sampling of women whose last name differed from their husband’s last name. Overall, 12% of married women reported situational last name use. Women from all last name choices (e.g., changed to husband’s, kept birth surname) reported situational surname use, but the most common occurrence of this practice was among hyphenators. Situational users were most likely to use their husband’s last name in family situations and their birth surname in professional situations. Factors that increase situational last name use included full-time employment, higher levels of educational attainment, and an older age at marriage. Situational last name use by married women can be seen as a manifestation of ambiguity over identity with family and non-family roles.

Key Words

married women’s surnames situational last name use marital roles women’s roles