The incredible story of triplets split at birth

Spitting image: The three brothers became famous in the 1980s and appeared on TV shows in identical outfits.

Does nature or nurture decide who we are? Three triplets were separated at birth and raised by very different families. Years later, the identical strangers met for the first time.

What’s happening

When Bobby Shafran started college in 1980, he was surprised to find that other students seemed to recognise him. “Guys slapped me on the back,” he recalls.

Bobby learned that Eddy, an ex-student, looked exactly like him. They discovered that they were identical brothers adopted by different families.

Find out more

Newspapers in New York published the brothers’ story. A man named David read the articles. He looked at the pictures of Bobby and Eddy and saw his own face staring back.

David soon met up with his long-lost triplets. A relative said the men got on so well that they were “rolling on the floor like puppies.”

The triplets were separated in a study to see how much a person’s life is decided by nature (the genes passed on by your parents) or nurture (your experiences growing up). Despite never meeting, the brothers had the same taste in films and all wrestled in college. However, as they grew older, their lives took very different paths.

Their story is told in a new film called Three Identical Strangers.

Does nature or nurture determine who we are?

Some say…

Nature is the most important thing. Eddy, Bobby and David had completely different upbringings, but when they found each other their friends and relatives were shocked that they talked in the same way and had the same body language. New research is showing that our genes can determine how clever and how happy we are, and who knows what else?

Others think…

Our environments shape us. Our experiences in childhood, whether they are happy or difficult, play a big role is deciding our personalities and how we respond to situations for the rest of our lives. This is true in the brothers’ story too, as Eddy had a more unstable upbringing than his brothers, which had a tragic effect on his later life.

You Decide

  1. Would you be the same person if you lived with a different family?

Activities

  1. Draw a family tree for your family. It can include your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and anyone else you can think of. As a class, talk about what you have in common with other members of your family. Maybe you have the same colour eyes as your grandmother, or you like the same books as your sister.

Some People Say...

“Not even identical twins can have the exact same experiences”

John Medina

What do you think?

Word Watch

College
In the UK, we say university. It is the place you go to continue learning when you leave school aged 18.
Identical
Exactly the same
Adopted
When a child is raised by parents who are not its birth parents.
Genes
Genes are things in your body that determine what characteristics your parents pass down to you, like your eye or hair colour.
Determine
Decide, or cause to happen.
Environments
The worlds and experiences that surround us.
Unstable
Difficult, unpredictable.
Tragic
Very sad.

Subjects

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