Genain quadruplets

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The Genain quadruplets (born in 1930) are a set of identical quadruplet sisters notable for all having schizophrenia, suggesting a large genetic component to the cause of the disease. The fictitious name Genain, used to protect the identity of the family, comes from the Greek, meaning dire (αινος) birth (γεν-). The (equally fictitious) names of the sisters, by order of birth, are Nora, Iris, Myra and Hester. These names were chosen to represent each of the four letters in NIMH, the acronym for the United States National Institute of Mental Health. Three of the sisters (all but Myra) were hospitalized for their schizophrenia at least once.

The girls' father, Mr. Genain, was frequently unemployed, and a highly withdrawn and irritable person. The mother, while showing fewer signs of schizophrenic behavior than the rest of the Genains, guarded her children obsessively. As the family's mental instabilities made life at home less and less tolerable, the Genains accepted an offer by the NIMH to take the daughters into their clinic, where they were given extensive testing and they were each diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The long history of mental illness in Mr. Genain's family suggests that genetics is a major cause of schizophrenia. Mr. Genain's mother had a three-year nervous breakdown in her late teens, and frequently threatened to kill herself and her husband later in life. The NIMH reported numerous behaviours in Mr. Genain's siblings indicative of mental illness, including an unemployed brother who slept with his 13-year-old daughter; another brother who was an alcoholic, another who reported hearing voices. Mr. Genain himself kept an unusually strict watch on his quadruplet girls, insisting on personally transporting them and having lunch together at the same time every day even after the sisters were well into their twenties. They were not permitted to visit or be visited by friends.


  • Bernheim, Kayla F. & Lewine, Richard R. J. (1979). Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-09017-5.
  • Rosenthal, David, (1963). The Genain quadruplets: A case study and theoretical analysis of heredity and environment in schizophrenia ISBN B0000CM68F

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