The Multiple School Years: Multiples at Secondary School

The aim here is to deal only with issues of adolescent multiples and schooling. More information about adolescent multiples, in general, can be found in Rosambeau’s (1987) book and David Hay’s chapter in Sandbank (1999).

What is different about being a multiple at adolescence?
For every young person, adolescence means three things

  • Going from the top of the primary school to the bottom of the pecking order at secondary school. In primary school, being multiples often meant recognition, but this may well not be the same at adolescence.“I can’t work out what happened when my twins got to secondary school. At primary school, they seemed so great. Now one or another is at the principal’s office every day. It’s like they want to do the wrong things, so they get attention.”Many years ago Helen Koch (1966) in one of the few detailed studies of twins at school age coined the term “the prima donna” effect for twins who can no longer rely on their twin status to acquire and retain friends. In the absence of good social skills, they go “over the top” in trying to get attention.
  • Going to secondary school with the very different demands on organizational skills as you get yourself from class to class and teacher to teacher. Many of the issue about separation of multiples no longer apply as they choose their own set of school subjects that reflect their interests and abilities. At the same time, problems of attention may become more obvious, especially when there are not others to watch out for you:” I know my triplets are not fantastic at school, but now they are at secondary school, it is so hard. They forget assignments; they forget books-they would forget to go to school unless I drove them…There used to be a trio-now there are three individuals going different ways, and they don’t support each other like they used to”. While ADHD is formally meant to be evident by age seven, our experience is that girls with the Inattentive form may manage till secondary school, when the extra demands on their organizational skills really identify there is a problem that must be addressed by the young person, the family, and the school.
  • Becoming a young and independent adult
    Every adolescent has to become independent from parents. But multiples need to become independent also from each other. And society has a lot of responsibility to accept in such obvious areas as eating and body image“My twin girls counted the peas on their plate. If one had an extra pea, then she/me/the galaxy wanted her to be fat-how could I cope?”While this may not seem to be a school issue, it really highlights differences between multiples and single-born children in the recognition of individuality. The French psychologist Rene Zazzo coined the term “the coupling effect” where twins may exaggerate differences between each other, to try to show their independence. That may go as far as one deliberately underachieving at school to emphasize being “different” from the other twin or higher multiples. There is a clear role here for parents to work in conjunction with the school. Often parents will be the only ones who have seen how the twins or higher multiples were similar earlier in their school careers and how differences have developed. To the school, it is just that one child is outperforming the other multiple(s) and is attributed just to differences between siblings At this age; it is really a question of the school, the parents and the multiples working together to sort out what is happening. This is an interesting paradox from the usual complaint of many multiple-birth families that parent-teacher meetings often try to cover all the multiples at one session, rather than recognizing individuality by scheduling separate sessions. The “couple effect” does mean a more holistic approach, recognizing multiples about each other, rather than just as individual members of the school.


References: See here




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