Identical Strangers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited is a 2007 memoir written by identical twins Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein and published by Random House. The authors were separated as infants, in part, to participate in a "nature versus nurture" twin study. They were adopted by separate families who were unaware that each girl had a sister. Soon after the twins reunited for the first time in 2004 at the age of 35, they began writing the book. Of the 13 children involved in the study, three sets of twins and one set of triplets have discovered one another. One or two sets of twins may still not know they have an identical twin.[1][2][3]

Twin study[edit]

Viola Bernard, a prominent New York City psychiatrist, had persuaded Louise Wise Services, the adoption agency, to send twins to different homes, without telling the respective adoptive parents that the children would be separated. Then, researchers sponsored by the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services secretly compared their progress. Bernard believed that identical twins would better forge individual identities if separated. By the time the twins started to investigate their adoptions, Bernard had already died, but the twins found New York University psychiatrist Peter Neubauer who had studied them.[3][4][5]

The twin study they were involved with was never completed.[6] The practice of separating twins at birth ended in the state of New York in 1980, shortly after Neubauer's study ceased.[7] Neubauer reportedly had Yale University lock away and seal the study records until 2066. He realized that public opinion would be so against the research that he decided not to publish it. As of 2007, the sisters and other twins had not persuaded Yale or the Jewish Board to release the records.[3][4][5][7] As of 2018, some 10,000 pages had been released but were heavily redacted and inconclusive.[8]

The Neubauer study differed from most twin studies in that it followed the twins from infancy.[3] One surprise to emerge from such research is that identical twins reared apart are as similar as those reared together. This suggests children's differences are forged less by their families than by genetics and chance.[4][9]

Documentary films[edit]

Two documentaries about this study have been released: The Twinning Reaction (2017)[10] and Three Identical Strangers (2018).[11][12]


  1. ^ Flaim, Denise (25 November 2007). "Lost and Found: Twin sister separated at birth are reunited and work toward a new relationship". Journal Times.
  2. ^ Flaim, Denise (25 November 2007). "Lost and found: Other twins were tracked for study". Journal Times.
  3. ^ a b c d Richman, Joe (25 October 2007). "'Identical Strangers' Explore Nature Vs. Nurture". All Things Considered. Retrieved 5 December 2007. Audio also
  4. ^ a b c Flam, Faye (7 December 2007). "Studying twins and identity: 1960s child-development experiment is unthinkable now". Philadelphia Inquirer – via Monterey County Herald.
  5. ^ a b Bradley, Lisa (9 December 2007). "SCIENCE: When Paula met Elyse". Sunday Star Times.
  6. ^ Rieger, Robin (29 November 2007). "Twins Reunited After Experiment Speak Out". CBS 3.
  7. ^ a b Spillius, Alex (29 October 2007). "Identical twins reunited after 35 years". Telegraph.
  8. ^ Ryan, Patrick (26 June 2018). "Three Identical Strangers': How triplets separated at birth became the craziest doc of 2018". USA Today. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  9. ^ Segal, Nancy (1999). Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior. Dutton.
  10. ^ The Twinning Reaction: Official Site. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  11. ^ Three Identical Strangers: Official Trailer. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  12. ^ Three Identical Strangers: the bizarre tale of triplets separated at birth (28 June 2018), The Guardian.