What Are Fraternal Twins?

Twins are siblings who are born together, typically within minutes or hours of each other. While many twins are considered identical, meaning they are the same sex and look seemingly alike, fraternal twins are different. Fraternal twins are formed when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm cells. This results in two distinct babies with different genetic makeup, though they will still be very similar developmentally and even physically.

Characteristics of Fraternal Twins

Fraternal twins can look quite different. While they will be similar in etnicity, they will not be identical. Fraternal twins can be different genders, and each can have different hair, eye, and skin color. Though fraternal twins can look alike, the differences will be much more obvious when comparing them side by side.

Physical Development

The physical development of fraternal twins can be very different from each other. Even from birth, one twin may be larger than their sibling. As babies, one may creep first and the other may walk first. Each of the twins may follow different growth curves and experience different physical development timelines and milestones.

Growth and Development Rates

Growth and development rates can be different from one twin to another. Each will grow at their own pace and this difference can be seen as early as infancy. One twin may have different weight, height, head size and physical skills than their brother or sister. This difference can continue and twins may find themselves in different physical development stages even several years apart.

Differences in Mental Development

Mental development can also be quite different between fraternal twins. One twin may be more vocal and advanced in language skills than their sibling and might develop earlier in this area, such as with walking and talking. Other areas of mental development can include development of memory, problem solving, cognition and social skills.

Difference in Temperament

Fraternal twins may have completely opposite temperaments. While one twin may be more assertive and social, their sister or brother may be more shy and reserved. One twin may be more flexible and adventurous, and the other may be more stubborn and set in their ways. Temperament differences in fraternal twins can be more obvious the older that they get.

Nature vs. Nurture

One of the long-standing arguments in the scientific community is whether differences between fraternal twins are due to nature (genes) or nurture (the environment). Scientists have studied the differences between fraternal twins to help learn the factors that will determine how they will ultimately act, think and feel.

Medical Impact of Fraternal Twins

Fraternal twins can be two totally distinct and separate individuals. As a result, it is important for mothers of fraternal twins to be aware of the potential medical differences between the twins. While one can suffer from health issues, their sister or brother may not exhibit the same health concern. Vaccinations and medical tests should be given to the individual twins, depending on their individual needs.

Multiple Pregnancies and Complications

Friends of the mothers of fraternal twins should be aware of the potential complications and higher risks that can accompany multiple pregnancies. Fraser Institute notes that the rates of pre- and post-term labor, Cesarean section delivery, and preterm delivery are higher in twin birth pregnancies. Additionally, pregnancies with fraternal twins tend to require extra visits to the doctor and ultrasound to monitor the health of each baby.

Coping and Supporting Fraternal Twins

Loved ones close to the mother of fraternal twins should help her understand the developmental differences that are completely normal. The environment should be kept harmonious and support the development of each sibling in unique ways. It is important to be sensitive towards each twin and emphasize the things that make each of them special.

Having fraternal twins can be both rewarding and challenging. Moms of fraternal twins can nurture each twin in a way that plays to their individual strengths. Each twin can develop in different ways, both physically and mentally, but these differences should be embraced. Friends and family should help the mother of fraternal twins understand the developmental differences and ensure that the environment highlights the special qualities of each twin.