Genain quadruplets

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The Genain quadruplets (born in 1930) are a set of identical quadruplet sisters. All four developed schizophrenia, suggesting a large genetic component to the cause of the disease. The pseudonym Genain, used to protect the identity of the family, comes from the Greek, meaning dire (αἶνος) birth (γεν-). The sisters were given the pseudonyms Nora, Iris, Myra and Hester, to represent each of the four letters in NIMH, the acronym for the United States National Institute of Mental Health. Nora, Iris, and Hester were hospitalized for their schizophrenia at least once each.

The girls' father, a highly-withdrawn and irritable person, was frequently unemployed. The mother, while showing fewer signs of schizophrenic behavior than the rest of the Genains, guarded her children obsessively. The quadruplets were abused by their father, and two of them were circumcised then tied to their beds on medical advice. As the family's mental instabilities made home life less and less tolerable, the Genains accepted an offer by the NIMH to take the daughters into their clinic, where they were given extensive testing and each diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The long history of mental illness in Mr. Genain's family suggests that genetics is a major cause of schizophrenia. Mr. Genain's mother had a three-year nervous breakdown in her late teens, and frequently threatened to kill herself and her husband later in life. The NIMH reported numerous behaviours in Mr. Genain's siblings indicative of mental illness, including an unemployed brother who raped his 13-year-old daughter, a brother who was an alcoholic, and a sibling who reported hearing voices. Mr. Genain himself kept an unusually strict watch on his quadruplet girls, insisting on personally transporting them and having lunch together at the same time every day even after the sisters were well into their twenties. They were not permitted to visit friends or receive visits from them.


  • Bentall, R. (2009). Doctoring the Mind: Why psychiatric treatments fail. London: Allen Lane
  • Bernheim, Kayla F. & Lewine, Richard R. J. (1979). Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-09017-5.
  • Rosenthal, David, (1963). The Genain quadruplets: A case study and theoretical analysis of heredity and environment in schizophrenia ISBN B0000CM68F

External links[edit]

  • Mirsky, A. F.; Delisi, L. E.; Buchsbaum, M. S.; Quinn, O. W.; Schwerdt, P.; Siever, L. J.; Mann, L.; Weingartner, H. et al. (September 1984). "The Genain Quadruplets: Psychological studies". Psychiatry Research 13 (1): 77–93. doi:10.1016/0165-1781(84)90120-3. PMID 6151205.