top of page


Womb twin survivors and family constellations

Viktoria Sas (translated from Hungarian)

Graduating in psychology I wanted to write my thesis about womb twin survivors. I saw this phenomenon first at a family constellation. I am deeply interested in it and I also decided to make this theme more popular and well-known by making a research. I would like to share my discussion and further researches from my thesis (Sas, 2010).

I made a questionnaire to examine if the characteristics of womb twin survivors about therapeutical experiences are really true. Furthermore there are standard personality and behaviour characteristics of womb twin survivors to others, who are probably not womb twin survivors. After I had made my questionnaire, I found Althea Hayton’s questionnaire (Hayton, 2010) on the internet which was very similar to mine. It is very interesting that two people who live in two different parts of the world have the same idea. I got in touch with her and we shared our experiences with each other. My questionnaire contains 123 statements. 20% of them are neutral, because I didn’t want that the people who fill in my questionnaire know what it is about. There was a checklist in my questionnaire with yes or no answers. The statements were about special biological and personality characteristics. They are based on the book by Austermann (Austermann, 2008), experiences of family constellation, some statements from Althea’s questionnaire and some own ideas. I took the questionnaire to family constellation groups and I had it filled in by every participant of the constellation.

In my study the womb twin survivors were those people, who found their lost twin on family constellation. They were 15 from 114 who filled in my questionnaire. There were 24 men and 90 women. 15 womb twin survivors from 114 people means that every 7th or 8th person was a womb twin survivor which is the same as in the literature (Bocklage, 1995). I made a control group that contains other 15 people who have had more than 5 family constellations and they didn’t find their lost twin. I supposed that these people don’t have lost twin. I can’t be sure about that, but I had to make a control group against the womb twin survivor group. It is also not sure that among the 99 people there are no other womb twin survivors. Therefore it was very difficult to make homogeneous groups to compare them each other. I compared the 15 survivors to the 99 people and the 15 survivors to the control group and I asked the womb twin survivors how they feel two weeks after the family constellation.

First of all my main result is that this statement was significant and we can observe a tendency in the statements "I have been searching for something all my life but I don’t know what it is." It is an average result because it can be anything for example: loving extreme sports or going somewhere far away. However these statements did not show any significant results one by one. I think the reason for it that 15 womb twins are not enough to have more results. The reason of this searching is substituting the lost twin. Besides I think this searching is a very important result. In Althea’s questionnaire this statement stands in the second place (Hayton, 2009). So I can say that this special characteristic may describe the womb twin survivor population.

Comparing the womb twin group to the 99 people I have got significant result concerning the question of control and perfectionism.

Analysing the question of control I wanted to know how the womb twin survivors feel about controlling the environment. Control means a causal relationship between a person and the environment. If somebody has a belief that she or he can control her or his environment, we say they have a control-belief. There are two extremities about control: internal and external control. Internal control means a belief that somebody thinks that events depend on her or his; and somebody with external control can feel that she or he has not got any influence on the events (Rotter, 1966). It can be possible, that womb twin survivors had an experience in the womb, that they have not got any influence to control the events and they generalize this knowledge to every aspect of their life. Or maybe, womb twin survivors can have the feeling that they couldn’t take control in the womb, so they always take control in their life. For example they love to plan their life. If some event happens in another way they have planned, it can remind them of being helpless in the womb. Perfectionism means trying to be perfect. A person with perfectionism takes her or his subjective standard in accomplishment situations to a very high value, and it is also high in an objective way. If she or he achieves the standard, they take another higher standard to achieve it. So it is a never-ending story for them. Perfectionism can be connected with self-esteem, fearing of failure and feeling of guilt (Shafran et al., 2002) these characteristics can describe the womb twin survivors, too. Womb twin survivors can also believe if they do everything in the best way, everything is going to be good.

Comparing the womb twin group to the control group I have got significant result in the question of having some sexual problems. It can be also a transgenerational problem. The inability of being delighted can be connected to the feeling that they don’t deserve happiness in their life. It was another significant result. The reason of it, that they have a belief that it is unfair to live happily if their twin is not alive. Womb twin survivors always have a feeling of the survivor’s guilt. Because of that they often sabotage relationships or happiness. The results show that womb twin survivors make friends hard. They can be refusing or adherent, these are the extremities which can cause some problems in their social life. There’s a tendency at the statement of speaking quietly which can be connected to being shy and reserved. Moreover, it is unpleasant for them when somebody who they don’t know touches them. The reason can be that maybe in the womb they lived through that the dead twin was fossilised and accidentally touched them. Touching of a stranger could remind them of this traumatic happening.

These results are very special because I can’t say that these characteristics describe all of the womb twin survivors, but my examined groups. The psychodynamic depends on the survivor's own experiences in the womb, the life-experiences and other personality characteristics. Analysing the biological questions I have found one significant result: in the family of the survivor group there are often alive twins. It proves the genetic occurrence of twins. The comparing was made by statistical t-test. I have checked also the reliability of my questionnaire and the Cronbach-alfa is 0,86 that means a very high value of reliability.

The feedback of womb twin survivors two weeks after the family constellation: everybody had good feelings, a lot of client’s problem has been solved, and their relationships with their mother or partner have become better. This is important because this trauma is connected secondly to the mother. There are a lot of womb twin survivors who have a problem with partner relationship, because it often can happen, that the womb twin is searching her or his lost twin in a partner, of course in an unconscious way. That is the reason why there can be a projection between partner and lost twin. The problems were brought to the family constellation of the womb twins: relationship problems (with partner or other people), anger, anxiety, and the feeling of stuck. 26% of womb twin survivors said independently from my questions and each other, that they always looked for something that they have found at the family constellation in their womb twin.

Because of the few members of my womb twin group, all of my results are demonstrative. My thesis can be useful to plan some more researches in the future. It would be worth making item analysis to check the validity of my questionnaire. That would be also important to check if the statements are in correlation with each other. These projects work by greater number of womb twin survivors. Some day maybe the questionnaires about the characteristics of womb twin survivors can be used to determine if somebody has a lost twin or not. The cleanest way to research womb twin survivors is checking biologically if somebody really has a lost twin or not.

I have an idea for the psychodynamic of lost twins. I saw four times on the 15 family constellations that there’s an other transgenerational happening besides the own lost twin. I suppose that there was a bad event in the ancestor’s life and it can be possible, that this is the reason why womb twin dies. They probably say to the survivor in soul "Rather me than you." It would be great to test these sentences at family constellations. It is a good psychological explanation why the lost twin dies and it may be soothing for the survivor. Finally, I would like to share my experiences about healing. I had some experiences from the feedback of my womb twin group members, that one family constellation is not enough to heal the trauma of losing a twin. There were some clients whose problem has not been solved or it took more time to them processing the result of the constellation. Besides this is my personal experience, too. After a family constellation the client can feel good, and have knowledge about her or his lost twin, even could touch or speak to the twin. But later the psychodynamic remains of this trauma can come out again. In my opinion healing takes the whole life. I think that womb twin survivors need help to process their loss in some therapeutically or helpfully way.


A. R. Austermann, B. Austermann (2008) Drama az anyamÈhben – Az elveszÌtett ikertestvÈr (The Surviving Twin Syndrome) Hellinger IntÈzet, Budapest

Bocklage, C.E (1995) The frequency and survival probability of twin conceptions in Multiple pregnancy: Epidemiology, gestation and perinatal outcome. Parthenon Publishing Group

Althea Hayton (2009) Results of the Type 5 questionnaire Downloaded: 29. November 2009.

Althea Hayton (2010) Womb Twin Questionnaire Downloaded: 13. October 2010.

J. Rotter (1966) Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs 80, 1-28.

Viktoria, Sas (2010) Az elveszÌtett ikertestvÈr jelensÈgÈnek vizsg·lata a csal·d·llÌt·s mÛdszerÈn kereszt¸l (The study of the lost twin phenomenon by family constellation)

K·roli G·sp·r Reform·tus Egyetem, Budapest (K·roli G·sp·r Reformed University, Budapest)

R. Shafran, Z. Cooper, C. G. Fairburn (2002): Clinical perfectionism: a cognitive behavioural analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy. Volume 40. (7) 773–791.

bottom of page