What is it like to be a twin

How twins suffer from their situation

Starting position

For dizygoti twins it consists in the fact that although the dispositions are different, the environment and upbringing make precisely these natural differences a merciless instrument for evaluating personalities.


From the first day of life, registered by us since the beginning of consciousness, our environment did not primarily regard us as individuals. Uniform clothing was common. The lack of a difference alone suggested to the viewer (we were always viewed together) that, contrary to genetic predetermination, we represent a personal unit. That was the beginning of the dilemma. Because it was by no means the case that we were naturally the same. My brother was always a bit more robust, I was a bit weaker, which was later compensated for by targeted training. Since the size was the same and the appearance was initially very similar, we always received the undivided and special (towards other peers) attention from relatives, teachers, passers-by, friends and safe.


This form of unsolicited and annoying attention led to the fact that almost all viewers (“oh, they are cute!”) And even their own families were constantly anxious to find significant differences between the two of us despite the visual similarity. The litany of provocative questions began with: Which of you two is bigger, who is stronger, who is smarter, are the grades the same, why are you (if that was the case) not dressed in the same way, do you have the same friends? The number of questions is infinite. They always came down to finding differences in quality and performance between us. If that was actually not the case, we as those affected were not able to realize it because comparative comments and conversation contents were not present in our thought scheme. From the first day of our consciousness we were exposed to a mutual competition that was imposed on us. This led to the fact that we were practically trained to make constant comparisons ourselves, to evaluate their results and to use them in our day-to-day interaction.

As a result, communication behavior was partially negatively influenced in childhood and adolescence. The school performance (always in one class up to the Abitur) was the reason for parents and all other people to consider the differences with the aim of giving the “worse” an incentive to improve their performance. The result was the permanent fear of being “thrown into a brotherly pot” by others and thus to be seen as a partner in the poorer performance or the reputation of the brother. Although this situation is normal in families with several children and the resulting natural differences, in a twin or multiple situation without the chance of an explanatory natural difference consideration it is destructive. Even justifications by means of lazy excuses, as they are customary and tolerated among children to assert themselves against parents and other adults as a defense mechanism, were hardly possible, since the “twin competitor” was available as permanent evidence to the contrary and a controlling authority.

No wonder that under these conditions our mutual observations and evaluations always had a lurking character and degenerated into fights on the smallest of occasions. Due to the school and neighborly playmates, the social contacts outside of the family were largely undivided. This inevitably led to a permanent “recognition race”, which occasionally resulted in the disastrous statement for children: “One person alone cannot be so stupid (stupid)”. And in the same breath they asked, are you alone, where is your brother, do you have a row, etc.? It is only too understandable that under these circumstances it was difficult to develop an independent personality at an early stage. It was only when they were separated through compulsory military service that they were perceived as individuals for the first time in an environment that was not influenced by the twin status. However, the youthful behavioral patterns still work. If we meet today, the mutual behaviors acquired during childhood can only be suppressed with great difficulty. Later in life accompanied the habit of always judging extremely critically the statements of others against whether they could possibly be meant against me. The ubiquitous self-defense prophylaxis remained mistrust.


On the other hand, this also involved an educated intellect that was attentive to differences and backgrounds. Since every thoughtless verbal utterance in childhood could immediately lead to nakedness or to a “fraternal attack”, we were trained early on to find verbal and later written formulations that always considered the subjunctive as ready for printing as possible. All of this may sound extremely negative, but nonetheless, at least until puberty, we also had a strong fraternal solidarity with the outside world. However, a number of subsequent aspects were positive, especially since optimism in life did not suffer. The better assessment of my brother's academic performance probably also helped me a lot. After this “competing twin school” it was not difficult in life to assign causes and effects to one another by means of a dissecting situation analysis and to draw more accurate conclusions from them. I cannot judge whether the subjective observations and assessments stand up to objective confirmation. Even less, whether similar relationships apply to other families. On the other hand, I can hardly believe that I am affected by a uniqueness that I have experienced. In addition, the educators (no other siblings) were not aware of this special educational psychological situation.


In the case of non-same-sex twins, the problem probably does not appear as exemplary, thanks to unmistakable natural differences. Multiple birth situations (more than 2 people of the same age) are certainly to be assessed differently. The inevitable and merciless (for children and young people) dual situation described above alone is one reason why the distinctions necessary in every upbringing must not be an instrument of upbringing and personality development in twins. Based on my experience, I can recommend twin parents to be very careful with competing or comparative sibling arguments in their upbringing. Furthermore, attention should be paid to differences in clothing, hairstyles, general appearance, etc. If possible, groups and classes should be separated in kindergarten and school. Different types of sport in different clubs make a lot of sense, because for the first time the personality traits can be shown in them without the pressure of family competition. If at all possible, twins should be able to develop independent social contacts separately over a longer period of time (with relatives, leisure time, holidays, language schools abroad, etc.) from their earliest childhood. It is also relatively easy to meet differentiation criteria in the daily routine at home and the distribution of tasks within the family.

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Created on June 28th, 2002, last changed on June 5th, 2013