Thursday, September 20, 2007

"If your family had raised me and mine had raised you, would I be you and would you be me?"

Nurture versus nature has always been a huge topic in psychology as well as a number of other sciences. It has also been the subject of a number of experiments some of rather questionable ethics. I remember first encountering it in a high school psychology class and a case study of how an adopted child had all sorts of problems while a biological child from the same family adjusted perfectly fine. Now we all know that children in the same family are not always treated perfectly equally and i have always been of the opinion that if adopted children are going to go searching for answers as to who they are or why they are the way they are or why things haven't worked out exactly as they wanted them to (the same way everyone else seems to) it is almost a ready-made and too-easily so answer to go looking in that adoption. I had a high-school friend who was sure his life would not be as screwed-up as it was (though it was my ever-so-humble-outside opinion that it wasn't too screwed-up) if he had been left with his natural mother (but there is usually some reason for an adoption in the first place, isn't there? Though not always what we are led to believe...) I have actually had my own doubts about the nature/nurture thing because my sister who is my mother's natural child and was raised in circumstances very similar to mine grew up much more alike to her, but i believe it is a combination and genetics always play a role.

The pendulum has always swung back and forth between what scientists have considered to have more of an influence and at the moment it seems to fall pretty squarely in the nature camp. When i first discovered the idea of studying identical twins raised apart (again in that high-school psychology class, as well as a few neurology texts i thought "Wow, how amazing that they would first separate identical twins and then be able to locate them in order to study them~how uncommon must that be?" The truth it seems, at least in some cases is somewhat more nefarious. The nonfiction book Identical Strangers: a Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein tells the story of what began as Elyse's search for her birth mother, and then developed into her search for and reunion with her twin sister as well as questions as to why twins would be separated.

Though both sets of parents would have been willing to take on twins had they been asked they were never asked, and the agency that adopted out the twins felt that it was an undue burden on parents to raise twins (as well as being in the process of conducting undisclosed studies of identical twins and, in one case, triplets, raised apart but in similar circumstance). Elyse and Paula also discovered a possible connection to mental illness in the birth families and scientific studies to see if that had a genetic connection. All of this smacks at least slightly of Josef Mengele's Nazi twin experiments.

Identical Strangers is told in a diary entry style alternating between Elyse's view and that of Paula's and i found it a very interesting well-told read. It was also one in which i felt i was reading many of my own feelings relating to being an adoptee, which is rather unusual in reading someone (or at least one half of the narrative) who has searched account.

Since their adoption took place at a time contemporaneous with my own i couldn't help but wonder if such a thing could happen to me. I've never felt as if i'm missing (any) part of myself. I would also hate to think there was any other form of me out there. I am so defined by my individuality and non-conformity... i guess you never really can tell. And they say we all have a doppelganger...

here's a few baby pics of me, if anyone out there has any that look exactly the same (besides my sister that is~whose pictures my mother has a difficult time telling apart from mine even though there is no blood relation, but then again my mum's a bit off...) maybe you should seek me out, or maybe you shouldn't ,you know how i am about that...

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