Study of identical twins separated at birth and reunited later in life

(from Smithsonian,, 1980, and Newsweek, 8 Nov, 1993)

The results of studies on the Jim Twins and other twins are still tentative and suggestive and therefore, not conclusive. Scientist Thomas Bouchard who conducted these studies on twins points out that " the genetic effect pervades the entire structure of personality. If someone had come to me with results like (these astoundingly similar traits of twins) I wouldn't have believed them."

The study at the University of Minnesota only began with the Jim Twins. Other recently reunited twins participated as well. Twins shared jewelry wearing habits, children's names, phobias(claustrophobia is common among twins....something about being two in a womb maybe), fear of high elevations, thyroid disease, speech defects. In one case, both twins were gay, in another, only one was gay. One set of twins, Oskar Stohr of Germany and Jack Yufe of California were separated after their birth in Trinidad and grew up in very different cultural surroundings. Yufe was brought up a Jew by his Jewish father in Trinidad and Stohr was raised in occupied Czechoslovakia and went ot a Nazi-run school. Their attitudes were different, but Bouchard observed similarities in "temperment, tempo and the way they do things" as well as their idiosycracies. Both wore short, clipped moustaches, stored rubber bands around their wrists, and read magazines back to front. Both also shared the habit of sneezing loudly in public to attract attention. This latter trait is baffling. Some things remain inexplicable. "The results showed that such characteristics as leadership ability, imagination, vulnerability to stress and alienation were largely inherited." However, traits such as aggression, achievement, orderliness and social closeness were fostered in the home environment. Some twins turned out very differently, too. One twin in the Minnesota study grew up to be a "stellar pianist" in a non-musical adoptive family. Her sister, adopted by a piano teacher, never took to the instrument.

Some characteristics thought to be environmental, such as phobias, may well have a genetic componant. Twins raised apart may actually be more similar than those raised together because pairs brought up together can emphasize the differences between them. Some critics speculate that twins' different environments have been inadequately studied and that adopted twins might not be an accurate sample because the circumstances of adoption may affect behavior. Bouchard concludes, "In a sense we're tampering with the the idea of the importance of the family in child-rearing. Our findings suggest that the subtle differences between and within families are not as important as people have thought in determining interests, abilities and personalities."

Twins Separated at Birth

The story of Jim Lewis and Jim Springer

(from Smithsonian, 1980) Jim Lewis and Jim Springer first met February 9, 1979, after 39 years of being separated. Both were very nervous at first, but now consider the reunion "the most important day of my life." Amid the euphoria over their rediscovery of each other, they came across astonishing similarities in their lives and behavior. Both had been adopted by separate families in Ohio, and had grown up within 45 miles of each other. Both had been named James by their adoptive parents, both had married twice; first to women named Linda and second to women named Betty. Both had children, including sons named James Allan. Both had at one time owned dogs named Toy. These parallels made them perfect candidates for behavioral research, as did their only short aquaintence with one another before they were inducted int o a study of reunited twins. The parallels were only the first in a series of similarities which would go to the heart of the influence of heredity and environment on human behavior. Dr. Thomas Bouchard of University of Minnesota studied the personalities and attitudes of the twin Jims, and the resulting similarities were again astonishing. In one test which measured personality variables (tolorance, conformity, flexibility), the twins' scores were so close that they approximated the averaging of the totals of one person taking the test twice. Brain wave tests produced skyline-like graphs looking like 2 views of the same city. Intelligence tests, mental abilities, gestures, voice tones, likes and dislikes, were similar as well. So were medical histories: both had high blood pressure, both had experienced what they thought were heart attacks, both had undergone vasectomies, and both suffered from migrane headaches. They even used the same words to describe these headaches.

The twins discovered they shared alike habits too. Both chain-smoked, both liked beer, both had woodworking workshops in their garages. Both drove Chevys, both had served as Sheriff's deputies in nearby Ohio counties. They had even vacationed on the same beach in the Florida Gulf Coast. Both lived in the only house on their block. The same patterns shared by the Jim Twins occurred time and time again. Their differences, more apparent now since some time has passed, are more subtle. According to Jim Springer, "the differences between Jim and me may be the differences between living in the city and country."

Lewis was responsible for their reunion. Both of the twins had been told as youngsters that they had a twin brother, but Springer's mother told him his twin had died. Lewis wasn't interested in finding his missing brother until later in his l ife, but "didn't do anything about it" until 2 years before they eventually met. He went to the courthouse and found Jim Springer's name. It was only a short time later that Lewis had Springer on the phone and their families agreed to meet. "We were both nervous wrecks on the phone." Their genetic similarities and environmental differences aside, their twin bond is now restored.

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