The development of twins has long been studied by comparing it to that of other children. However, being born with a “double” influences their unique psychological development.
Can we develop in the same way when we are an “identical” twin as when we are biologically unique? For a long time, the scientific community shunned the question, focusing more on the similarities displayed by the twins. Thus, one came to the rather unfavorable conclusion that twins, unlike only children, developed language, abstraction and other cognitive abilities with a systematic delay.
This is a mistake: we now know that twins have their own development and that it is therefore impossible to model it on that of only children. Indeed, they go through certain additional stages, which will allow them to develop their personality and will ultimately lead them to autonomy. The journey of empowerment for twins actually has three phases: the fusional stage, during which the twins are welded together, undifferentiated. Then comes the stage of complementarity, where distinct roles areattributed to twins. Finally, the stage of autonomy, which emerges in adolescence, with the first romantic relationships.
From birth to age two, twins go through a natural stage called “twin fusion.” This is the direct consequence of the need for parents to have to take care of two children simultaneously. Since they do not want to harm one of the children compared to the other, the parents offer both children the same thing: they therefore provide a common and not individual response to the needs of the little ones. The two children thus become a single entity. It is the presence of this "twin entity" that explains why twins show a certain delay (six to ten months) in affective and cognitive maturity compared to other children: twins interact less with their environment, and more with each other.
Then, between the ages of two and six, the twins enter a second stage of their development: complementarity. From then on, parents begin to respond to their children's requests individually. Often, at this age, the needs of children will indeed be different, even opposite. It is not uncommon to see significant differences: one of the twins is angry, while his brother is docile. One prefers desserts, while the other likes s alty. They are said to be complementary – like acouple!
It is often at this time that parents begin to insist on a skill (painting, music, drawing, song) that will probably be different in each of the twins, thus creating an asymmetry. The co-twin will learn from the learning of his sibling, which can be seen as a stage of “cognitive development parasitism”. If the name is not very flattering, this step is a first step towards the autonomy of the twins, who are in the process of building themselves in relation to each other.
This complementarity can also be seen at the physical level and it could be that, at this stage, there are more battles between the two. They are testing themselves, putting their strength to the test. If their oppositions can be very virulent, even violent, they will not hurt each other and, once the conflict is settled, will start playing together again, as if nothing had happened.
Language delay and cryptophasia
It is during the period of complementarity that the phenomenon of cryptophasia sometimes appears, designating a specific language that the twins construct to communicate with each other, and that the entourage does not succeed not to drill. It was at the end of the 1950s that this phenomenon was first brought to light by two Russian psychologists, Alexander Luria and F. Yudovich. They had studied two abducted twins in a completely symbiotic way and who had developed a structured language, with a separate lexicon and syntax. This unique languagemade it possible to understand each other, without anyone else getting there!
Such a phenomenon is extremely rare, but a language delay is not uncommon. When one of the twins learns a word, he repeats it with certain distortions. The other twin then learns the twisted word from their brother or sister. Each of the twins therefore has, in a way, a bad role model by their side.
Dominating and dominated
From this moment, parents must start thinking about how to separate their children, especially in the school context. It is believed that the separation should indeed not take place when the twins are in the midst of a period of complementarity, unless a significant dominant-subordinate relationship develops between them. Such a relationship exists in all twins, but it is fluctuating: it changes according to situations, activities and times. In such and such a situation, one takes control, while in another context, it is his brother or his sister who leads. If it's still one of the twins who takes control, we could decide to separate them more quickly.
Around the age of six, among other things thanks to their entry into school, twins begin to be considered as unique individuals. From this moment, they reach a phase of autonomy which allows them to develop skills and preferences. Any delays that might have been observed in early childhood tend to reverse. At this time they will begin tohelp each other, especially with homework and some learning. They solicit each other and become for each other a “developer of knowledge”. If one progresses, the other builds on it.
The entry into adolescence is the last stage of twin development: that of complete autonomy. This autonomy is built because of the need to set up a space for an “other” to enter the couple. Indeed, at this age, each of the twins seeks to establish a specific affective and emotional bond with a third person. This new relationship, loving and sexual, will be totally different from what has been experienced until now with the brother or sister. It represents the completion of self-affirmation as an individual. This couple does not supplant the twin bond, but allows the two twins to develop within another relationship. In addition to having to separate from their parents, the twins must also separate from their co-twin. They could therefore experience an additional crisis since they will need to redefine their relationship.
It is also important to note that, during adolescence, having a twin can be very advantageous. We note among other things that the twins develop an increased sense of empathy. More attentive to the feelings of others, they often find it easier to enter groups. Moreover, in this troubled period of adolescence, they have something rare: someone to confide in, someonewho they can ask for advice.