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Social Modifications of the Multiple Birth Effect on IQ and Body Size: a Population-Based Study of Young Adult Males

Authors


Correspondence:

Karri Silventoinen, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Population Research Unit, P.O. Box 18, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

E-mail: karri.silventoinen@helsinki.fi

Abstract

Background

Twins and triplets fall behind singletons in cognitive and physical development. We analysed whether these differences are modified by family social position.

Methods

IQ, height, body mass index (BMI) and elbow flexion, handgrip and knee extension strength were measured in Swedish men born between 1951 and 1976 during the conscription examination at 17 to 20 years of age. Information from Swedish registers on all siblings and parental socio-economic position were linked to these measures. Together, the measures were available for 1 140 329 singletons, 19 755 twins and 207 triplets. The data were analysed using regression analyses and fixed-effect models which compare twins and triplets with their singleton brothers.

Results

Twins and triplets had slightly lower IQ, height, BMI and muscle strength than did singletons both at the population level as well as when compared with their singleton brothers. Although the differences between twins and triplets were small, they were largest in families with lower socio-economic position. We also found larger differences in IQ among the sons of mothers born before 1940.

Conclusions

Twins and triplets fall slightly behind singletons in cognitive and physical development, even in early adulthood, but twins and triplets show no major differences. These differences are largest in families in a low socio-economic position. Our results underscore the importance of the postnatal environment in the development of twins and triplets and suggest that their parents, especially those in a low socio-economic position, need special support.

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