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Name stories: experiences of names & naming in adoptive family life

Unit(s) of assessment: Social Work and Social Policy

Research theme: Health and Wellbeing

School: School of Social Sciences


This project is about personal names and identities. It focuses on adoptees and adopters as people whose experiences of the multiple ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ functions of forenames and surnames are especially likely to be significant and complex. The project uses life-story interviewing and creative life-writing methods to capture ‘name stories’ through which adults describe and make sense of their adoption-related naming and identity experiences.

Findings will fill important knowledge gaps about the place of names in adoptive identities and in adoptive family life, and strengthen broader empirical, theoretical and everyday understandings of the significance of name-linked identities in contemporary societies. The project is funded by The Leverhulme Trust and runs from September 2022 – September 2024.

The project is led by Dr Jane Pilcher, along with Eve Makis and Professor Amanda Coffey of the University of West of England, Bristol. Researchers on the project are Dr Hannah Deakin-Smith, and Dr Jan Flaherty.


Pilcher, J., Hooley, Z., and Coffey, A. (2020) Names and naming in adoption: Birth heritage and family making, Child & Family Social Work 25 (3): 568-575.

Pilcher, J. and Coffey, A. (2022) Names in adoption law and social policy: representations of family, rights and identities, Families, Relationships and Societies, Early View Online, 11 November, pp 1-16.