Delib­er­ate­ly Divid­ed: Inside the Con­tro­ver­sial Study of Twins and Triplets Adopt­ed Apart

September 1, 2021

In the 1960s, the head of a NYC Child Devel­op­ment Cen­ter and a psy­chi­a­trist from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty tracked the devel­op­ment of twins and triplets relin­quished for adop­tion and delib­er­ate­ly giv­en to dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies. The adop­tive par­ents were nev­er told they were rais­ing one twin — the inves­ti­ga­tors insist­ed that the sep­a­ra­tion be kept secret. Segal reveals the inside sto­ries of the agency that sep­a­rat­ed the twins, and the psy­chi­a­trists who observed them. This study was hard­ly known until the release of two recent films, Three Iden­ti­cal Strangers and The Twin­ning Reac­tion, that left view­ers shocked, angered, sad­dened, and want­i­ng to know more. Through records, let­ters, and inter­views with the col­leagues, friends, and fam­i­ly mem­bers of the agency’s con­sul­tant and study’s inves­ti­ga­tors, as well as jour­nal­ists, ethi­cists, attor­neys, and — most impor­tant­ly — the twins and their fam­i­lies, Segal tells dis­turb­ing truth about the study. The spell­bind­ing sto­ries of the twins’ sep­a­ra­tion, loss, and reunion offer read­ers details that, until now, have been lost to the archives of history.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Nan­cy Segal 

  1. Was it right or wrong to keep the twin­ship hid­den from the families?

  2. Would par­ent­ing be com­pro­mised if the par­ents knew their child was a twin?

  3. What is the best way to raise twins?

  4. How could such a rep­utable Jew­ish adop­tion agency engage in the ques­tion­able prac­tice of sep­a­rat­ing twins giv­en up for adoption?

  5. How is it that promi­nent, respect­ed pro­fes­sion­als engage in ques­tion­able research?

  6. Would you go along with a men­tor who want­ed you to do research you felt was not right?

  7. Was it cor­rect to seal the records until 2065 at Yale University?

  8. Was it cor­rect to seal the records until 2021 at Colum­bia University?

  9. Who owns data gath­ered uneth­i­cal­ly from research par­tic­i­pants who are still living?

  10. How can we com­pen­sate twins for their stolen twinship?”

  11. What are the respon­si­bil­i­ties of researchers to their participants?

  12. What defines a person’s research lega­cy — the good work he or she accom­plished or the unfa­vor­able acts he or she com­mit­ted? Can we reach a bal­ance between them?