Challenges That Biracial Twins Face

Father holding his twins
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Biracial twins are twins who do not share the same skin color. They can be born when one parent or both parents are of a mixed race, allowing for different skin tone variations. They can also be born when the parents are different races, such as one black parent and one white parent.

One geneticist, Dr. Jim Wilson of the University of Edinburgh, explained that there are actually at least 20 different genetic markers that determine a person's skin color, so variations, even among twins, can happen quite easily.

And when you consider that parents have their own genetic variations and markers as well, it becomes apparent how many different types of variations could be possible for biracial twins.

The twins can be the same sex or different sexes, but because their skin colors are different, among other differences, they are not identical twins. Instead, biracial twins are fraternal twins.

Biracial Twins

According to Dr. Wilson, a couple who is made up of one mixed-race parent and one European parent has about a one in 500 chance of producing twins with different skin colors. The doctor compared the skin variants that control skin color to a deck of cards; some cards represent light skin tones while others will result in a darker skin tone, even though they are from the same card deck. 

Although biracial twins are relatively rare at the moment, some twin experts have predicted that the incidence of biracial twins will actually become more common, as mixed race couples have become more common as well.

Biracial Challenges

Unfortunately, some families have reported challenges for their biracial twins. One twin, for example, who does not have the same skin color as a parent, may feel different or face questioning from schoolmates and other people. It would get very tiresome to answer the same question over and over about why you don't look "the same" as your twin.

Other twins have reported struggling with self-identity or feeling like they have a "hidden" identity that society does not recognize. Genetically, for example, a biracial twin may have a light skin color but be of African heritage.

There may also be some health challenges for biracial twins. One Scandinavian study found that there is an association of greater adverse pregnancy outcomes with births from biracial couples as compared with a birth resulting from two white parents. A birth from biracial parents, however, has less adverse outcomes than rates from two black parents. 

The Takeaway

As the number of biracial couples grows, so does the number of biracial children, and as a result awareness about how to talk about biracial twins and biracial children has increased. We'd hope that people are less likely to comment or judge others because of their skin tone.

However, even though our society is changing, it's important to acknowledge that biracial children do sometimes still struggle with identity and experience their own unique set of challenges in day-to-day life. As parents and caregivers, it's our responsibility to help as we can. When children experience these challenges, a simple conversation is a good place to start helping.

Explain who they are and provide tips on ways to reply when classmates or others ask a question or make comments. If you feel that you need extra help, speak to teachers or a health professional.

Sources:

Srinivasjois R. M. et al. Biracial couples and adverse birth outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analyses. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 2012.

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