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Curtin University of Technology
Twins and Multiples

Stress and depression

Why start with such a negative topic? While most parents manage and enjoy their twins or higher multiples, some do not. There are now several population-based studies that show a higher rate of depression in parents of young twins that is not just postnatal depression, but ongoing problems right up to school-age. There have been no really convincing studies of triplets. However, one study from well before the birth found that almost 40% of parents were being treated with anti-depressants several years later. It is not clear why this happens with twins and higher multiples, but much seems to have to do with the stresses (the extra workload, the lack of sleep, the financial burden and so on) of two or more children the same age.

So while many families will be coping, what happens about those who are not?

1. For the family

Recognise that Mum and sometimes Dad is not coping and seek sympathetic help. The last thing you want is the comment:

"What can you expect with twins?"

All parents (and their children) have the right to support when things are difficult

2. For the preschool staff

There is lots of advice given to parents at preschool about how to help the children adjust, but how does this work for two, three or more, especially if Mum or Dad is not managing so well? Recognising that this is an issue and suggesting they seek help may be fundamental. Sometimes it gets too much, and there are two major studies that show higher rates of child abuse in families with multiples, which is sometimes directed to the older sibling rather than one of the twins. Fortunately this is rare. However preschool staff may need to think about how they would handle such a situation if it arose.

I remember the mother who said the incessant squabbling between her two year old twins got so bad, she put one inside the washing machine! Fortunately rather than turn it on, she went to speak to a supportive neighbour. What if she had not had someone like this she could turn to without being judged?