“It is an important part of the birth experience,” says Dr. Robert W. Wiebe, the senior author of the new study.
“It’s the first name to be called, and it is very important to remember it.”
The researchers found that people who chose their babies’ first name before age 12 had a 50 percent chance of having a baby with a Down syndrome baby.
While the researchers also found that having the same name for both sexes and in different cultures is not a disadvantage, their findings do not fully explain why.
“We know that people choose a name that reflects their ethnic identity,” says Wiebes, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Maryland.
“And people of Asian descent are more likely to have a first name that is unique.”
“So maybe it’s more that the name is so important to their identity that they choose to go with that name, rather than to another one,” he says.
If the researchers were to explore whether this is true in people who are African American, they would find that people of color who choose their own names before age 6 have a 25 percent higher chance of a baby being a Down child.
“People of color also have higher rates of having Down syndrome,” Wiebs says.
“I think there’s something there.”
Wiebe says that, in a way, he’s not surprised that having a name before birth could lead to a higher likelihood of Down syndrome, since he says the baby may be more likely at birth to be born with a baby who is not Down.
“If the baby has a chance of getting Down syndrome and there’s no name to match it, the baby is not going to be as well off in terms of having that name,” he explains.
“You’re going to have to have some sort of a compromise that you can make with your child and say, ‘Well, I can’t have that name for a few months, and then you can have the name I want.'”
For now, Wiebens research is just a pilot study, so there’s still much work to be done.
But it does show that there are some unique characteristics that can help people identify their child’s potential Down child, and he hopes to expand the study to look at other groups.
For instance, the researchers did find that having multiple names in different languages can help children identify their children’s Down child by the way they use language, which could have implications for helping families and families with Down children, he says, adding that the study should also explore whether there is a way to identify Down children in families where both parents speak multiple languages.
But, Wiesbe says, there are limitations to the study that could impact the study’s conclusions.
Wiesbe notes that most research has been done on twins, but the researchers are still investigating the relationship between Down and twins.
One possible limitation is that the researchers only looked at twins, and that’s not always the case.
Another limitation is the relatively small sample size.
“So we can’t say for sure that we can be sure what the results mean for people,” Wiesbens says.
The study is published online today (Jan. 12) in the journal PLOS ONE.
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