Some Obscure Facts About the History of Twin Studies

Twins are a constant source of fascination for humanity. For scientists, they represent a natural control group upon which we can test assumptions about nature vs. nurture.  With the technological boom of the last century, we have more information about twins and their implications than ever. Here are some unusual discoveries that science has made about multiples.
 
Women who have twins live longer.  Researchers were surprised to find that women who bear more than one baby at a time have a longer life expectancy statistically.  The Utah Population Database, which dates back to the 1800’s provided a sampling of 58,786 women, 4,603 of whom had birthed twins before the advent of birth control or invitro procedures. Mothers of twins lived longer, experienced longer durations of fertility and recovered faster between pregnancies compared to the mothers of singletons.1
 
Twins have different immunity.  Even identical twins can respond very differently to environment and so one twin can be susceptible to illness, their identical may have the ability to fight off that same disease.  A study at Brigham Young University indicated that once twins leave the womb, they may respond very differently to pathogens, bacteria or microbes.2
 
Separated Twins Still Share Some Startling Similarities.  In the 1960’s and 70’s child psychologists conducted clandestine studies on twins that were given up for adoption, under the strong assumption that twins should be separated.  At the time, it was very typical for parents of twins to dress them the same, give them similar names and basically treat them as though they were copies of the same person.  A famous study conducted by Thomas Bouchard titled the Minnesota Study of Identical Twins Reared Apart, found that twins will often exhibit similar tastes, as well as personality traits like work ethic and political persuasion.  These studies have taught geneticists that traits we previously assumed were conditional actually have a basis in genes.3
 
Twins have been the subject of unethical science that hindered progress.  The nightmarish experiments conducted by Josef Mengele in Nazi Germany often centered around twins.  Mengele had a morbid fascination with twins and because of his lack of regard for his subjects and reckless bad science, studies on twins went unapproved for years after WWII.4
 
Fertility drugs have produced an explosion in twin births. Fertility treatments are very likely to work too well and produce multiples.  Because of this, between 1980 and 2009, the U.S. population has seen a 76% increase.5
 
40% of all twins will develop a unique, autonomous language.  Researchers were stunned to discover that wins are very likely to invent their own communication.  Facial expressions and baby babble are the basis for learning language, and twins will devise their own unique way of speaking.  This pre-language disappears as they develop and learn to adapt to their parents’ speech.6

 

1. http://www.livescience.com/14103-superwomen-moms-twins-healthier.html

2. http://theweek.com/articles/484575/5-strange-new-facts-about-twins

3. http://www.npr.org/2007/10/25/15629096/identical-strangers-explore-nature-vs-nurture

4. http://www.longwood.k12.ny.us/lhs/science/mos/twins/mengele.html

5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/24/twin-facts_n_4959012.html

6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3434134

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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