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Twinning Rate in Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands During Years of Privation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2014

A.W. Eriksson*
Institute of Human Genetics, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, Population Genetics Unit, Helsinki, Finland
W.M.A. Bressers
Institute of Human Genetics, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
P.J. Kostense
Department of Theory of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Medical Faculty, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
K.J. Pitkänen
Department of Economic and Social History, University of Helsinki, Finland
J.H. Mielke
Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, Population Genetics Unit, Helsinki, Finland
L.B. Jorde
Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, USA Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, Population Genetics Unit, Helsinki, Finland
R.F.J. Tas
Central Bureau of Statistics, Voorburg, The Netherlands
J.O. Fellman
Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, Population Genetics Unit, Helsinki, Finland
Institute of Human Genetics, Free University, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


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Twinning rates were studied in Swedes, Åland Islanders, Finns, Germans, and Dutch during years of starvation when death rates were two to three times higher than average. In contrast to the situation among some animals, this study suggests that nutrition above a certain threshold is unimportant for human reproduction, including twinning. The twinning rates for these different populations display marked temporal differences, but low values in the twinning rate are not consistently associated with periods of epidemics, famine, or similar nutritional stress. After years of privation and/or separation of spouses, a rapid “catch-up effect” can often be seen in the twinning rates, as well as marriage and birth rates. Psychoendocrine factors and interparental immunological conditions that may be involved in this phenomenon are discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © The International Society for Twin Studies 1988



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