The first international twins conference held in the Czech Republic (CR), “Life With Twins,” took place in Prague on October 20-21, 2011. The conference was arranged under the auspices of the Parliament’s Commission for Family and Equal Opportunities. The setting was an auditorium in one of the Parliament’s magnificent old buildings. Mrs. Klara Vitkova Ruliková, the mother of eighteen-year-old opposite-sex twins, chairperson of the Czech multiple birth association (CAKDAV) and member of ICOMBO, was instrumental in organizing the meeting. Mrs. Vitková Ruliková has also authored three books on twins and parenting and was responsible for writing an epilogue for my book Indivisible by Two, translated into Czech. She is currently working in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
I was fortunate to be invited to present research at this conference, along with other psychologists, physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, and twin specialists. In addition to Mrs. Vitková Ruliková and myself, the following individuals discussed their research findings and clinical observations: Dr. Tat’jana Horká (CR), Dr. Antonin Parízek (CR), Dr. Josef Vas (Hungary), Lynda P. Haddon (Canada), Dr., Jaroslaya Raudenská (CR), Marie Fejtková (CR), Dr. Pat Preedy (UK), Dr. Kristina Tóthová (CR), Ludvík Pinc (CR), Tereza Sasinková (CR) and Gail Moore (Canada). The conference began with a welcome from Parliament member Marek Benda.
Many familiar issues concerning twins and their families were addressed at the meeting and I will briefly describe some of them below. However, one of the most interesting and informative talks was given by Mrs. Vitkova Ruliková who presented a historical sketch of the events responsible for CAKDAV. She explained that when she was pregnant with opposite-sex twins nearly twenty years ago, there was very little information available to her regarding how to raise them or how being a twin might differ psychologically from being a singleton. Dissatisfied with this situation, she decided to change it. In 1993, Mrs. Vitkova Ruliková began by obtaining relevant materials on twins from TAMBA (Twins and Multiple Births Association) in the UK. Over the next two years, she made contact with other mothers of twins and in 1995 the decision was made to formally establish a local twins club. In 1996 and 1997 the efforts of these mothers were made known to mothers in other Czech cities and, as a result, other twins clubs came into being. By 2000, advisory services were offered by telephone from Mrs. Ruliková’s home, but the response was overwhelming. It was necessary to establish a website for this purpose and others.
The year 2000 was also dedicated to distributing information to hospital staff in order to make it available to expectant mothers of twins. In 2002, the first book about twins was published in the Czech language. However, 2003 was a pivotal year because the national Twins and Multiple Birth Association, or CAKDAV was established and began coordinating the work of the smaller clubs. National conferences started to be held on a yearly basis, bringing together the members from forty-five separate clubs. CAKDAV joined ICOMBO in 2006, and two new books on twins in Czech were published in 2006 and 2009. These efforts culminated in the first international twins conference in 2011.
The conference was organized into sessions covering the Prenatal period, birth, and neonatal period; Breastfeeding and the first three years; Psychological aspects of preschool and school-age twins; Psychological aspects of adult twins; and Organizations to support families with twins. The difficulties of twin pregnancies, especially early delivery, were discussed by Dr. Parízek who noted that premature birth can be delayed, but not prevented. Marie Fejtková discussed educational issues regarding twins, indicating her preference for allowing classroom placement decisions to be made on a case-by-case basis. She noted that parents have little input in this decision in the CR when children first start school. Dr. Kristina Tóthová described counseling bereaved twins, calling them “forgotten mourners.” It seems that the unique features of twin loss are often overlooked.
Dr. Pat Preedy described her new work with the movement for multiples, a program that allows one twin to exercise independently while the parent attends to the co-twin. Linda Haddon presented an informative overview of her work with multiple pregnancy loss. Ludvík Pinc described twin studies of odor similarity in which dogs have tried to distinguish between them. Gail Moore discussed her efforts toward disseminating information at home and abroad.
Information about CAKDAV is available on the association’s web site, at www.dvojcata-asociace.cz. Some portions are presented in English. The logo is a pair of dice that may show identical or contrasting sides when thrown. It is a clever choice – twins may be identical or non-identical, paralleling tosses of 3-3 and 3-4. Non-identical twins can vary along trait-related spectrums of similarity (4-5) and dissimilarity (1-6).
Nancy L. Segal
Department of Psychology,
California State University, Fullerton
Fullerton, CA 92834 USA
Written for Twin Research and Human Genetics. January 2012