It’s no surprise there’s a special bond between twins, but did you know that it begins in the womb?
A 2010 study from researchers at Italy’s University of Parma and University of Turin found that twins interact socially with each other as early as 14 weeks in the womb, according to Scientific American.
“The results suggest that twin fetuses are aware of their counterparts in the womb, that they prefer to interact with them, and that they respond to them in special ways,” according to Scientific American.
To find this, researchers used ultrasonography to survey five pairs of twin fetuses for 20 minutes at a time. The scientists found that by the 14th week, babies spent less time focusing on themselves and more on their twins, Scientific American reported.
Four weeks later, the twins “spent more time contacting their partners than themselves or the walls of the uterus” — with 30 percent of their time in the womb being spent interacting with their twin alone, according to Scientific American.
The interactions included stroking their twin’s head or back, The Epoch Times reported.
Researchers said in the study that this finding shows babies engage in social behavior earlier than expected.
“The womb is probably a crucial starting point to develop a sense of self and a sense of others,” the study’s co-author, Vittorio Gales, told Scientific American.
The study may also be an indication of how early twins develop a shared special bond.
There are more than 1 million sets of twins in the United States, according to The Atlantic. And that number may only be going up. In 2009, 1 in 33 U.S. births were twins, which is up from the 1 in 53 twin births in 1980, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a rise of almost 76 percent.
There’s been this long-held belief that twins share a strong bond with each other throughout their lives. For example, some believe in something called “twin telepathy” — an ability shared by twins to finish each other’s sentences, know what the other is thinking and feel sympathy pains, LiveScience reported.
Stories also abound about twins who, because of their bond, have found each other after being separated, and have strong relationships with their siblings.
And research confirms many of these findings.
“Recognizing your same traits in another person may set off emotional and cognitive processes that facilitate bonding,” wrote Nancy Segal of The New York Times’ Gray Matter blog.
As our own Lois Collins reported in August of last year, a study from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm found that twins often have the same level of musical talent — no matter how much one practices more than another.
“Researchers compared pairs of identical twins and found that no matter how hard one twin had practiced up to that point in their life, the other twin who had practiced much less still had an equal level of ability in certain musical skills,” LiveScience reported on the study.
Some, like Segal, said this is because twins share certain genetic traits.
But not everyone’s convinced that twins have this special bond.
“Any two people who know each other very well and who have shared many common experiences — including non-twin siblings, old married couples and even best friends — may complete each other’s sentences and have a pretty good idea about what the other person is thinking,” according to LiveScience.
Researchers at Queensland University of Technology announced a study in 2011 that planned to look into whether or not there really was a special bond between twins. They wanted to evaluate relationships shared between both identical and fraternal twins 5 to 10 years old, according to a QUT statement.
“There is an assumption that a twin relationship is unique,” professor Karen Thorpe, a member of the research team, said in a statement. “People culturally are fascinated by twins and believe they have a close relationship but whether that is different from any other sibling relationship has not been studied.”
The study’s results have yet to be published.
Getting twins to bond isn’t always easy, even though their bond potentially started in the womb. Parents often struggle to get their two babies to get along because both babies need individual attention that may be required at different times, according to Everyday Family, a parenting advice website.
What works for one twin may not work for the other, which often leaves the twins apart from each other during their first year, Everyday Family explained.
The bond between twins won’t come until twins are given room to interact and socialize with each other, according to Everyday Family. To help twins build that bond, parents should make sure their twins are often around each other and are happy when that is the case.
“There will come a day when you are pulling both of them in a wagon through the yard, listening to them giggle, and realizing in an instant how quickly they have changed,” according to Everyday Family. “You will look at them and realize that it has been there all along.”