Nature VS. Nurture in Twins

January 19, 2010
By Jacquelyn Salzbank SILVER, Port Washington, New York
Jacquelyn Salzbank SILVER, Port Washington, New York
9 articles 0 photos 4 comments

One of the most debated questions in the scientific world is whether a person’s characteristics come about due to differences in our genes (nature) or our surroundings (nurture). Almost inevitably twins, more so identical twins have become the subjects of observation in this area. In my high school we are fortunate to be surrounded with a variety of different types of twins spanned throughout all the grades. Not to mention a variety of teachers who are twins as well. This makes it possible to observe first hand the effects of nature versus nurture in our own school environment and decide what we believe is more prevalent in a person’s personality, their nature or their nurture.
There are two types of twins, identical and fraternal. Fraternal have half their genes in common, about the same amount of DNA as regular siblings. Since identical twins started out as one before their shared egg splits, this causes them to share 100% of the same genes! For this very reason as well as the fact that they shared prenatal environments and are usually brought up under the same family, social and cultural conditions, identical twins serve as an excellent source for twin studies. Even though there are many moral conflicts in this field, some of the more interesting twin studies research identical and fraternal twins who were raised apart. If the characteristics are similar regardless of the fact that they were raised in different environments, this could point to genes playing a more major role, while if the characteristics are different, environmental influences assume the stronger role.
For example if twins raised in different homes have many similarities, but fraternal twins raised apart have little in common, researchers may conclude that genes are more important than environment. If genes were the stronger element determining a person then it would only make sense for identical genes to produce identical people. In a book titled “Identical Strangers” the authors write about their experiences of finding out that they were part of a secret research project in the 60’s and 70’s. While identical twins share DNA they are usually brought up in a home together in the same environment adding to the difficulty of seeing whether nurture has a great effect on their characteristics. So this agency put up infants for adoption separately and neglected to inform the families that the baby was a twin. The agency then monitored their development becoming an unprecedented experiment. The authors later found out about the experiments but all the research has been sealed until 2066 and given to Yale University to store. The two women feel they have similar characteristics such as their preference in music or books and the same basic personality. They do however feel they are different people with different life histories.
I am a twin. When I think of my sister and me, I recognize us as two completely different people. While this may have to do with the fact that we are fraternal and share not one identical feature, we also have very different tastes in clothing, food, and books. I was always exploring and experimenting while her eyes were focused on theater, but our morals and values are very much the same. This could perhaps point to a mixture of both nature and nurture. While our genes distinguish us as very different girls, our family environment brought up two individuals with virtually identical ethics and principals.
While most fraternal twins act like my sister and I, identical twins seem to have a different experience. Even though they too develop as individual people with separate personalities, they do have more of the same tastes. Although every twin becomes accustomed to having a buddy with them through their life experiences and feel as though something is missing when that buddy is gone, identical twins have somewhat of a different bond that only identical twins could have. It could be because of the identical genes, or it could be the fact that since they look so alike, they were treated as such from a young age resulting in similar characteristics to be present.
Don’t take researcher’s word for it, make your own decision! Take a minute to look around at your classmates in school. Do we act differently because of the way you treat us, or because of the genes that make us up? There are plenty of twins of many varieties to observe. Spanning throughout almost every grade, there is at least one set of twins to be found. Don’t be shy; ask us questions about our experiences being twins. We will be happy to answer.

The author's comments:
I based this essay on books, articles, and research as well as personal experience

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