Should twins have separate classrooms?

In the suggestions thread, Allison posted: “I was wondering if there was any good information out there with regard to twins and whether they should be separated or kept together in school. Mine are almost 4 and we have the opportunity to separate them next year in pre-k. In their current class, they mostly just play with each other, with one following and modeling the behavior of the other. I would really like the follower to branch out on his own, and for them both to make other friends. But they are each others’ best friends and part of me hates to break that up.”

Studies of the effects of separation of twins for school have shown conflicting results. For instance one paper published in 2005 by the International Society for Twin Studies looked at both the long-term and short-term consequences of separation. This study tried to look very carefully at whether it was pre-existing issues or the separation itself that could have led to difficulties. Their conclusion was that in the long run, separation doesn’t affect behavior or academic achievement. However, another paper published by the same society in 2004 reached the conclusion that separated children may fare worse academically, especially identical twins. Smaller studies published earlier also have a variety of conclusions. Among papers published in the last ten years, the consensus seems to be that separation may be harmful or neutral, but is probably not a good thing.

However, this doesn’t take into account the particular issues facing your twins. There may be situations where separation is a good idea: if one twin overshadows the other academically or socially, and you are concerned that the less outgoing twin will get lost in the shuffle; or, if the twins are likely to distract each other or as a pair distract the other students. You may also wish to ask the twins themselves which they would prefer.

From my conversations with parents of twins over the years, I’ve found that families end up being happy about their decision either way. The kids will probably be fine if separated (after all, “best friends” get separated all the time in school). They’ll probably also be fine if they share a class together. Your know your kids best, and are in the best position to decide whether separation for school is a good idea at this time. Though the studies seem to favor leaving them together, depending on your circumstances it’s reasonable to go either way.

© 2008 Roy Benaroch, MD from

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