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Understanding tradition: Marital name change in Britain and Norway

Duncan, Simon; Ellingsæter, Anne Lise; Carter, Julia


Simon Duncan

Anne Lise Ellingsæter

Julia Carter
Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology


Marital surname change is a striking example of the survival of tradition. A practice emerging from patriarchal history has become embedded in an age of detraditionalisation and women’s emancipation. Is the tradition of women’s marital name change just some sort of inertia or drag, which will slowly disappear as modernity progresses, or does this tradition fulfil more contemporary roles? Are women and men just dupes to tradition, or alternatively do they use tradition to further their aims? We examine how different approaches – individualisation theory, new institutionalism, and bricolage – might tackle these questions. This examination is set within a comparative analysis of marital surname change in Britain and Norway, using small qualitative samples. We find that while individualisation and new institutionalism offer partial explanations, bricolage offers a more adaptable viewpoint.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Sociological Research Online
Electronic ISSN 1360-7804
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Duncan, S., Ellingsæter, A. L., & Carter, J. (in press). Understanding tradition: Marital name change in Britain and Norway. Sociological Research Online,


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