This weekend I had time to engage with a new book. "Twins. From Fetus to Child. 2002" by Alessandra Piontelli. Piontelli is an italian psychoanalyst, a Professor for Child Neuropsychiatry and Researcher at the University of Milan/Italy. Her book "From Fetus to Child" provides the first long-time study on children before and after birth using utrasound. Piontelli's main interest then was to examine if birth really is such a turning point in life or if character traits that appear after birth are also recognizable before. Her study proved that they do.
"Twins" is the necessary sequel to her first book. It is a study done on 30 pairs of twins from 10 weeks gestation to the children's fourth birthday. 15 were monozygotic and fifteen dizygotic. The book contains numerous tables and pictures and is a scientific but understandable read.
What struck me first when reading it was something I also noted in Piontelli's first book and left me annoyed even then. She doesn't seem to like her study's subjects. or rather she treats them just like that, subjects, not people. She comments on the people's behaviour, outfit and mental state in a way I can only call embarrassing.Sometimes her style borders on contempt. As reader I didn't like that.And I don't like it in "Twins", either. of course, her comments are probably true. She tells how parents complain about expecting twins, how mother whine about the pregnancy, how ideals are shattered and newborn babies are preferred or rejected and you may say this is just unemotional scientific style of writing. I still don't like it.
Also, as a psychoanalyst she probably can't help to see sexuality left, right an centre. It was even more prominent in her first book where she describes in detail the behaviour of a three-year-old as a little Lolita intent on nothing but sex. It reminded me of Joan Woodward's, author of "The Lone Twin" on the treatment she received from a psychoanalyst after the death of her twin-sister at age three. That woman blamed little Joan's distress not on her sister's death from diphteria but on surpressed childish sexuality. Joan Woodward told her to stop asking her rude questions and let her play with the toys. Good on you, Joan!
Nonetheless, Piontelli's "Twins" is an immensely interesting read which provides tons of informations for twins and non-twins alike. Still, I'd advice to take it with a grain of salt. Piontelli is either discovering or assuming certain "facts" about twins. At the end of the day she describes only monozygotics as "real" twins even quoting the French term of "vrais jumeaux" = true twins for identicals and "false jumeaux" = wrong twins for fraternals. Monozygotics are constantly described as having more contact and interest in one another, as behaving and being treated more like twins from parents, peers and other adults alike. Fraternals appear to be more or less ordinary siblings accidentally born at the same time. I don't say her research isn't accurate, I just wonder if the fact that this IS the main attitude towards twins in Europe and as I know from experience not necessarily the same in the US, for example, may have coloured her motives.
Furthermore, she interprets twinship more or less as the result of parental treatment. Psychoanalyst to the core, again, she blames twin's relationship mostly on the way their parents treated them, made them sleep in the same cot, let them face one another, dressed them alike and so on. This process she calls "twinning" and according to it twin's demand to be seen as twins doesn't stem from the children themselves but from their parents.
Also, and now I become really impertinent, there is an element in her book I would like to psychoanalyze myself. I would say, Piontelli is subject to an emotion not uncommon among singletons: twin-envy. Throughout her book I feel a clandestine need to prove that twins either are not that special as they make out to be or that their specialness is something their parents trained them into. This even leads to contradictions when she states in one passage that twin-infants show not the slightest interest in their co-twins and the next page shows pictures of three-months-olds interacting quite intensely.
For example, the often curiously close bond between opposite sex fraternals she explains as the experience "we are all brothers and sisters underneath", which is very philosophical and the Dalai Lama would certainly applaud her, but I still believe the connection between boy-girls twins runs deeper than that.
The attention many twins receive from the public Piontelli calls "social glamour", a term that - imhO - does sound envious. She could have chosen "public attention", couldn't she? It's very interesting to read her book right next to Nancy Segal's "Entwined Lives" which Piontelli knows and quotes. The strain of envy I believe to detect in "Twins" is totally absent there. But then, Segal is a twin herself.
All in all "Twins" is an important and highly interesting book and worth a read and a purchase, it just shouldn't be taken as gospel concerning twinship.