Myths About Multiples

True or False? Ten Common Misconceptions About Twins/Multiples

Myths About Multiples. Bob Packert / Getty Images

There are many myths and misconceptions about multiples. Let's take a look at some of the more pervasive ones and see whether they hold true from the perspective of parents.

1) It's twice (or three, four, five times...) as hard to raise multiples.

Not necessarily. Like love, parenting effort is not something that can be measured quantitatively. All parents experience hardship and challenges with their children.

In some ways, having multiples is actually easier than having several kids of different ages. Multiples are natural companions for each other, taking the burden off of mom or dad to serve as entertainer and playmate.

2) One is good and one is evil.

No child is all good or all bad. Sure, there are times when one twin will try to attract parental attention by being a "little angel" when the other is acting devilish. But, turn around and the multiples are just as likely to switch roles! And, just as often, multiples will wreak havoc as partners in crime -- who's evil now?

3) They are always born by c-section.

While there are risks associated with multiple birth that make cesarean sections a safer option, not all multiples are born that way. Some obstetricians even have a lower c-section rate with twins than with single births!

The chance of a c-section increases with the number of babies; yes, higher order multiples such as quadruplets or quintuplets are almost always delivered in the operating room.

But many doctors are at least willing to attempt a vaginal delivery if conditions are favorable for both babies in a twin birth.

4) Twins should always be separated in school.

Although school systems may say otherwise, there is no evidence that indicates that multiples excel if placed in separate classrooms, or that they fail if kept together.

Actually, some recent studies have proposed that separation can actually be detrimental to their educational experience. Every set of multiples is different, and several factors should be considered when evaluating the school placement issue, including the dynamics of the childrens' relationship and their individual learning style.

5) Families with multiples are showered with free stuff, donations and offers of help.

As much as we might wish it, that's not always so. Although some companies do provide discounts or free gifts to families with multiples, the offers are dwindling. What is available is mostly appropriate for infants. As multiples grow up, parents find financial help to be scarce. Occasionally, schools or activities will offer a discount -- say 10 or 20% -- for a second child. But, as multiples become more common, such breaks are the exception and not the rule.

6) They are always the best of friends.

Although the bond between multiples is unique and special, twins and other multiples are not automatically exclusive buddies. They enjoy friendships and relationships with other kids just like singleton siblings.

7) They are always in competition.

Multiples are subject to sibling rivalry just like singletons.

While some do engage in comparisons and competition, many others don't. As multiples develop their own individual identity, they don't feel compelled to contrast themselves with their twin.

8) The older multiple is a leader, the younger is a follower.

Birth order typecasting isn't relevant to multiples. Not much happens in those few minutes (sometimes seconds!) between births that could impact personality. If a firstborn multiple exhibits leadership traits, it's more likely due to environmental influences, not their twin status.

9) Twins have ESP.

It's an intriguing concept, that twins share a kind of paranormal connection -- a twin telepathy.

Science says otherwise, however. Sure, there are reports of twins feeling each other's pain, finishing each other's sentences and identifying each other's thoughts. But scientists say that any two people -- husbands/wives, close siblings, good friends -- who have extreme genetic similarities, shared experiences, and a close bond can exhibit this same phenomenon.

10) They look alike and no one can tell them apart.

Some twins do look alike. Some don't. (See Determining Zygosity to find out why.) But even identical twins with extremely similar physical attributes have subtle differences. Once you get to know multiples as individuals, you can distinguish them. Parents can almost always tell their children apart, and they won't forget who is who. That's not to say that parents won't be fooled from time to time -- especially when they're sleep deprived!

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