“Side by side”: Development of twin relationship dimensions from early to middle childhood and the role of zygosity and parenting

Hila Segal, Ariel Knafo-Noam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Twin relationships have a significant effect on the twins’ life and their families. In the first comprehensive study of this topic, our purpose was to examine the developmental courses of four dyadic dimensions of twins’ relationships: closeness, dependence, conflict and rivalry, and the impact of zygosity and parenting on their relationships. Parents reported on their twins’ relationships (N = 1547 mothers and 536 fathers with data from at least one of four measurement points from 3 to 8–9 years of age). The sample included 322 monozygotic twin dyads (sharing virtually 100% of their genes), and 1194 dizygotic twin dyads (sharing 50% of their genetic variance, on average). Our findings indicated that closeness and dependence decreased while rivalry increased through childhood. Dependence and rivalry also presented quadratic change. The twins’ conflict increased only for dizygotic twins. As expected, we found that the twins’ closeness and dependence were highly associated, as did the associations between conflict and rivalry. The mostly nonsignificant associations of closeness with conflict and rivalry reinforced the notion that they are not bi-polar opposites. However, dependence was positively related to the twins’ conflict and rivalry. A zygosity effect was also evident as monozygotic twins had higher levels of closeness and dependence than dizygotic twins through childhood, but there was no significant difference in the levels of their conflict and rivalry. In congruence with family system theories, parental positivity predicted the twins’ closeness and dependence, and parental negativity predicted the twins’ dependence, conflict and rivalry. The results were discussed in light of an evolutionary perspective and the twins’ developmental challenges through childhood.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2494-2524
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Childhood
  • Longitudinal Israeli Study of Twins (LIST)
  • development
  • parental negativity
  • parental positivity
  • twin relationships
  • zygosity

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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