Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were twins adopted out to separate families, and didn’t meet one another until they were 35 years old. What they didn’t know is that they were part of a research project that separated identical twins in the 1960s and 1970s in order to see the impact of nature versus nurture. In 2004, Schein contacted the adoption agency that had been in charge of her case in order to find out more about her birth mom. Instead, she found out that she had a twin sister. The parents did not know that their adopted children had an identical twin, or that the subject of the study was separation of identical twins. They had simply been told that their children were, upon their adoption, already part of a child study that was ongoing through childhood.
Peter Neubauer and Viola Bernard, who specialized in child psychology and consulted with the agency from which the twins were adopted, began the study in the late 1960s. Bernard felt that twins being raised in the same environment—including being dressed similarly and treated the exact same—hindered their development. A year after the study ended, in 1981, a law was created in New York, the state from which Paula and Elyse were adopted, that required adoption agencies to keep all siblings together.
Neubauer later stated that he had no remorse for separating the twins. At the time, it was believed that it was better for twins to be separated at birth and raised independently. Paula and Elyse found that they had a lot of the same interests and personality traits despite being raised in separate households. They even wrote a book, Identical Strangers, as a way of explaining and trying to understand what happened to them. The most astonishing part? Neubauer shared that, while one set of triplets and two other sets of twins in the study had found one another, four remaining test subjects still did not know that they had a twin.