Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

EXPLORING TWINS; towards a Social Analysis of Twinship

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

EXPLORING TWINS; towards a Social Analysis of Twinship

Article excerpt

STEWART, Elizabeth A.. EXPLORING TWINS; Towards a Social Analysis of Twinship. New York, NY: Global Publishing at St. Martin's Press, 2003,221 pp., $26.95 softcover.

This extremely dense and turgid book, written by a sociologist who gave birth to twins herself, is rich with metaphor and literary and biblical allusion. The author exams myths and explanations of twinning throughout time and across world cultures. She also looks at why there are so many persistent myths around twins and sees these myths as a way of explaining twinning. While some cultures see twinning in positive terms [divinity, fertility], many see the phenomenon in negative terms [infanticide of one or both twins, death of the mother, banishment of the family, exposure of the twins, starvation of one or both twins, death to girls and life to boy twins]. Stewart also discusses the importance of support groups, such as MELD, to help parents strategize and cope with raising multiples. Interestingly, the Yoruba of Nigeria have the highest twinning rates in the world.

Stewart spends a lot of time noting the occurrence of twins in literature, from Shakespeare, Rogers and Hart, Mark Twain, and Alice in Wonderland. They also appear prominently in films such as The Dark Mirror, The Parent Trap, Dead Ringers and Twins. She points out that twins research is often used to deduce the impact of nature vs. nurture, the extent to which the environment plays a role in our lives. The medical research model or the twin clinical model is divided into four cases: both twins affected in the same environment, only one twin affected in the same environment, both twins affected in a different environment, and only one twin affected in a different environment [p. 41].

The most interesting chapter to me dealt with measuring twinship or the psychology of twins, where scientists study temperament, personality, temper, attention span, smiling, vocalization, cognition, and IQ. Other chapter dealt with the impact of twins on each other, and on family, parents and siblings. It is clear from the research that giving birth to twins is more dangerous and complicated for the mother and that the financial impact on the family of raising twins is huge. Not surprisingly, twin status contributes significantly to subsequent child abuse, as parents deal with all kinds of stressors, including difficult if not broken marriages following the birth of twins. …

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