Nature vs. nurture: Identical Twins Raised Apart

Here are some pretty incredible stories that I found in my clinical psychiatry book:

1) Jim L. and Jim S. were first reunited at age 39. They were genetically identical twins, reared apart since infancy by different adoptive families in Ohio and unaware of each other’s existence. As children, each twin had had a dog named Toy. Each bit his fingernails and, since age 18, had suffered from mixed headache syndrome, a combined tension and migraine headache. Each had been married twice, first to a Linda and then to a Betty. One twin had named his son James Alan, and the other, James Allen. Each had put a circular bench around a tree in his garden. Each had worked at a gas station and later part-time in law enforcement as a sheriff. Each chain-smoked Salems and preferred an occasional Miller Lite beer. Each scattered love notes to his wife around the house. Every summer, unbeknownst to the other, each had driven his family in a light blue Chevrolet from Ohio to the Pas-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg, Florida, for their summer vacation. They had similar voices, hand gestures, and mannerisms.

2) Jerry L. and Mark N., identical twins separated in infancy, were first reunited at age 30. Each was nearly bald and had a bushy mustache. Each was a volunteer firefighter and made his living installing safety equipment. Each wore aviator glasses, big belt buckles, and big key rings. Each drank Budweiser with his pinky hooked on the bottom of the can and crushed the can when he finished.

3) Jack Y. and Oskar S., identical twins born in Trinidad in 1933 and separated in infancy by their parents’ divorce, were first reunited at age 46. Oskar was raised by his Catholic mother and grandmother in Nazi-occupied Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. Jack was raised by his Orthodox Jewish father in Trinidad and spent time on an Israeli kibbutz. Each wore aviator glasses and a blue sport shirt with shoulder plackets, had a trim mustache, liked sweet liqueurs, stored rubber bands on his wrists, read books and magazines from back to front, dipped buttered toast in his coffee, flushed the toilet before and after using it, enjoyed sneezing loudly in crowded elevators to frighten other passengers, and routinely fell asleep at night while watching television. Each was impatient, squeamish about germs, and gregarious.

4) Bessie and Jessie, identical twins separated at 8 months of age after their mother’s death, were first reunited at age 18. Each had had a bout of tuberculosis, and they had similar voices, energy levels, administrative talents, and decision-making styles. Each had had her hair cut short in early adolescence. Jessie had a college-level education, while Bessie had had only 4 years of formal education; yet Bessie scored 156 on intelligence quotient testing, while Jessie scored 153. Each read avidly, which may have compensated for Bessie’s sparse education; she created an environment compatible with her inherited potential.

Kaplan & Sadock’s “Synopsis of Psychiatry.” Ninth Edition.
Segal NL. Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us about Human Behavior. Plume: New York; 1999:116-151.

41 thoughts on “Nature vs. nurture: Identical Twins Raised Apart

  1. tinkerbell

    this is the most wierdest thing i have ever heard of in my intire life. twins should be able to stay with his or her twin not raised apart. thats just sad in so many ways i cant tell you haow i feel about that cause i feel so 50 50 about it. its so hard to tell you about it. twins desure to live with its twin!!!!! TWINS ARE HUMANS TO YOU KNOW!!! LET THEM LIVE A HAPPY LIFE WITH ITS TWIN!!!!!!!!

  2. Scott K

    @tinkerbell, Thanks for the comment! I agree that it is best for siblings of any kind to be raised together. However, just to clarify, the twins in the above studies were not separated for purposes of scientific study. The scientists merely sought out identical twins that had been separated at birth for whatever reason and then interviewed them many years after the separation. It would be extremely unethical to separate twins just to study nature-vs-nurture.

  3. Nicole

    In my opinion, I think it is a very interesting study. However, I also think that it is a shame that these twins were seperated at birth whether it be for scientific reasons, or because they were adopted by different parents. This study shows that our genetic make-up has a lot to do with who we are and what we do in life. It’s absolutely amazing that these twins managed to find one another and had the same mannerisms and personalities.

  4. heatherjrock

    While siblings may do better raised together, lets look at the facts:

    A) Neither sibling knew of the other. This means there was little to no attachment before separation. They did not realize they had a twin until whatever forces brought them together and, as such, were fine with the situation, simply because they had never known the scenario of having a sibling beforehand.

    B) Most people looking to adopt are only looking into taking one child. If one family is willing to take one child and another family wants to take the other, then the child’s basic needs of shelter, love, food, etc. are provided for, and that’s really all one can ask for when it comes to adoption.

    C) This provides an amazing opportunity for personality research and how heredity can impact people in the same ways even though they are in different environments.

    D) They’re not separating twins purely for research. Don’t think for a second that science is that conniving. Science wasn’t there in the adoption agency thinking about the future and all the interesting tests they would do in forty years.

    E) They’re FINE. I’m sure they got over it. It’s life.

  5. Dr. Ew Marchdank

    i really think this article is incredible im so happy i read this and want to keep on reading til my eyes turn to light blue dogs floating on a spirited sky. i love reading and twins, so this really got my wheels turning!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS A BUNDLE

  6. Elizabeth

    I’m an identical twin and I think that because my sister and I were raised together makes us very different because we tried to be different yet we are still VERY similar. I don’t think that we would ever be alike like the ones in this article when we leave home. I find that identical twins that are raised seperatly become more alike their twin then twins raised together because twins raised together try to be different…just a thought of mine! I find these stories so interesting!

  7. Brittany

    I think that twins being separated at birth is unfortuante. Once you find out you have a twin, I can imagine the void you would feel. This whole nature vs. nurture thing is very interested to me, though, and I’m thankful that there is research done about it. It’s a very interesting topic.

  8. Bessie :D

    HEY i would lovelovelove to have a twin named jessie!!! omg that would b so awesome! hahah jessie and bessie !!!

  9. Brittany

    True, none of the above people were separated due to scientific research, but there are plenty of other sets of twins that have been.

  10. Caleb

    “Plenty” who have been separated at birth for the sake of science? I can think of only two examples, and both were very controversial and highly criticized.

  11. Ellie

    Thanks very much for this article. it really help me with my essay. YOU GUYS R THE BEST!!! thanks again =D πŸ™‚ its so cool that most twins life are base on Nurture than nature. I love reading this article. It has been a great help with my Health and Social care H/W. =D πŸ™‚ xx

  12. Ellie

    hiya again do u know who did number 4 experiment??? Because i want to use it for my essay. thnxs πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  13. Scott K

    Hi Ellie,

    I’d get a copy of Kaplan & Sadock’s “Synopsis of Psychiatry.” Ninth Edition from the library. It is talked about in there. Complete source is listed at the bottom of the post. Good luck with your essay.

  14. Atheist

    Interesting study. More research should be done in this area. I’m really curious about the whole nature v nurture debate.

  15. mel

    i think this topic is so interesting, yet i cant seem to find enough of one study for my sociology analysis!! im only finding bits and pieces of different studies. i dont want to have to switch my topic. awesome and very interesting! thanks!!

  16. prav

    its fair enough to list the similarities – but what about their differences?
    I think it would only be a true analysis if boththe similarities and the differences are listed.
    I think while in some ways the twins or even non twin siblings can be similar, in other ways they could be very different.

  17. Scott K

    prav, Good point! I bet if these twins were growing up together they might even have celebrated their differences or at least tried to be as unique as they could. Society has an impression that twins are “identical” and as children and, especially, teenagers they may want to try and break that stereotype.


    man i think twins should be raised with each other since birth. So i i think this research is bad.

  19. Scott K

    PARTYNINJA, I completely agree. I think, though, that in the case of the above studies, these twins were not separated on purpose. Rather, it was a retrospective study assessing twins that were already separated. You’re right that it would be inhumane to separate twins for the purposes of scientific research of any kind.

  20. Becky

    Hey Scott this is a great piece of research that has helped me with my coursework however i cannot find the book anywhere and i need to be able to reference it is there any chance you could send me the full reference its just i need both Kaplans and Sadocks first intials to complete the reference you would be saving a uni student big time


  21. Scott K

    Hi Becky,

    Benjamin J. Sadock and Virginia A. Sadock.

    Sadock BJ, Sadock VA, eds. Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry . 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 2003.

    (It is also in the 2007 edition on page 158; searchable via Google Books here.

  22. sam

    all of this is biased as their are no stories to support nuurtue in their the evidence is based only on twins that are conforming tom genetics theory

  23. kandice

    This helped a lot for my essay! I think it was very interesting to read because i know that a lot of twins raised together try really hard to be different but they’re still so similar because it’s in their genes. Thanks a bunch! (:

  24. joan

    What happens when twins are separated by death shortly after birth???? Does the surviving one feel…lost???

  25. dave

    That’s so cruel to separate twins at birth, scientists are heartless GODless creatures.

    Praise Allah

    Allah was also a twin, separated at birth by the imaginary sky god scientists and now in charge of a parallel universe.

  26. Scott K

    Dave, I agree that separating twins for the purpose of research would be horrible. The children in the stories above were NOT separated by scientists. The scientists simply found and interviewed them many years later.

  27. IanIian

    Though, there maybe be surprising similarities of separated twins. We forgot to see their surprising dissimilarities as well.
    Even complete strangers will have a lot of similarities from each other, even a few quite remarkable. So, until both similarities and dissimilarities equated or balanced out, then can we say that separated twins are really close to identical beings, or simply just two normal people who happen to have quite a few similar disposition and choices.

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