Twinship in mythology and science: Ambivalence, differentiation, and the magical bond

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Maria Paluszny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article has attempted to show parallels and continuities between mythological traditions dealing with twinship and modern scientific approaches that either study twinship itself or use twin studies to answer more general questions. We do not mean to imply that modern research on twins is just a continuation of mythological concepts. What we have tried to show is the continuity in some of the questions being asked and in some of the answers being given. The explanation we would like to offer here for these parallels is that there are common psychological elements in both mythological and scientific approaches to twinship. The two major elements are fascination and ambivalence. Fascination with twin births has always been combined with a great deal of apprehension and ambivalence. In both primitive and modern societies, multiple births have been viewed as a potential source of familial and social conflict and complication. The Old Testament mythological tradition, which emphasized competition and individuation in twin pairs, and the Greek mythological tradition, which emphasized fusion and intimacy, are both reflected in modern approaches to the study of twinship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-353
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1974
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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