Nancy L. Segal Ph.D.

Twofold

The 1960s Child Development Twin Study Revisited

Discovery of a reared-apart twin?

Posted Dec 20, 2018

A 1960’s twin study, conducted in New York City, still attracts attention. In the mid-1960s, the Louise Wise Adoption Agency began placing twins in different adoptive homes. This practice was adopted due to advice from Dr. Viola Bernard, a Columbia University psychiatrist. She reasoned that twin children did not receive undivided attention from their parents, so their separation and rearing as a singleton was more beneficial for them. One of her colleagues saw an opportunity—he prospectively studied the development of five sets of identical twins and one set of identical triplets that were being reared apart. The children’s parents never knew.

Some findings from this study have been published in a journal article and in a book, Nature’s Thumbprint, by Dr. Neubauer and his son. A new film about the study, “The Twinning Reaction,” by director Lori Shinseki has also been completed and will available for viewing in the near future. However, the behavioral records, videotapes, interviews and observations have been deposited in the Yale University archives and will not be released until 2066. The twins can get access to these materials, but need to be granted permission from the Jewish Board of Family and Child Services, in New York City. A few pairs have not yet been identified, which is why the following story is interesting.

In late November, something unusual happened to Justin Goldberg, a fifty-one-year-old entertainment executive in Los Angeles. His teenage daughter was having dinner with friends at Los Angeles’s Farmer’s Market. She noticed a man who looked exactly like her father, but she also knew that he was not her father—still, she took a short video of the man with her cell phone. Justin, her real father, was shocked by the resemblance between himself and this stranger. The video he made and an article about his experience by journalist Bruce Haring can be seen here

Why is this incident so meaningful? Justin (originally named Michael) was born in New York City on April 12, 1966, and adopted as an infant by Jay Goldberg (an attorney) and his wife through the Louise Wise Adoption Agency. The couple later adopted a younger daughter through that agency. Justin was raised in Tarrytown, which is just outside New York City in Westchester County. He wonders if he could be one of the twins who was separated from his twin brother by the Louise Wise Agency.

Unfortunately, twins are still being separated—not for individuality and identity purposes, but because of parents’ financial inability to care for two children simultaneously; assisted pregnancies that produce more children than families had planned for, and various other reasons. As someone who has worked closely with reared-apart twins and witnessed a number of twin reunions, I always urge researchers and social workers to make every effort to keep twins together—this is a research-based assertion.  

A more detailed version of this essay will appear shortly in the journal Twin Research and Human Genetics. Anyone interested in additional information about this study is advised to consult that article, as well as the sources below.

References

Abrams, S. (1986). Disposition and the environment. In P. B. Neubauer & A. J. Solnit (Eds.), Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (pp. 41–60). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Haring, B. (24, November 2017). “Justin Goldberg’s Search for Long-Lost Twin is Story Made for Hollywood.” Deadline, http://deadline.com/2017/11/justin-goldberg-hollywood-executive-twin-brother-search-adoption-1202213641/

Neubauer, P.B., & Neubauer, A. (1990). Nature's thumbprint: The new genetics of personality.New York: Addison-Wesley.

Perlman, L.M. (2005). Memories of the Child Development Center Study of Adopted Monozygotic Twins Reared Apart: An unfulfilled promise. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 8(3), 271-275.

Neubauer, P.B., & Neubauer, A. (1990). Nature's thumbprint: The new genetics of personality. New York: Addison-Wesley.

Perlman, L.M. (2005). Memories of the Child Development Center Study of Adopted Monozygotic Twins Reared Apart: An unfulfilled promise. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 8(3), 271-275.

Segal, N.L. (2012). Born Together-Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Segal, N.L. (2017). Twin Amythconceptions: False b=Beliefs, Fables, and Facts About Twins. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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