The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up

Have you ever met a man or woman between the ages of 25-40 who behaves too infantile? They are difficult to live with because they hardly take responsibility, they are allergic to commitment and have off the charts egocentrism. In modern psychology, it’s called Peter Pan syndrome. They suffer from people who do not want to grow up and who live only for themselves, do not think about tomorrow and are afraid of serious relationships. The syndrome, named after Peter Pan, a reluctant adult character in James Barrie’s fairy tales, has no gender restrictions, but it is still more common in men.

The Peter Pan Syndrome Men Who Have Never Grown Up
The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up

Conitive PsychologistWritten by Ameli
Cognitive Psychologist

An egocentric is a person who focuses only on his or her own interests in life. An egoist is someone who does something for himself at the expense of another. For example, a person who in society pulls all the attention to himself, occupies the space of the conversation only with his talk, talks about himself without paying attention and without thinking whether it is interesting for others – this is rather an egocentric.

The Peter Pan syndrome: how does it work?

The term was first coined in the book The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up by Dr. Dan Kiley (1983). The key message is that adults with Peter Pan Syndrome are those whose chronological age does not match what they exhibit in behavior . The most obvious causes of this behavior are an inappropriate parenting style, avoidant attachment type, or narcissistic disorder.

#1 Parental influence

It is no secret that the style of parental upbringing largely determines the character of the child. One such harmful parenting style is an overprotective. You can also often find the term helicopter parents on the internet. This is a parent who shows excessive concern or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.

“some college officials see all this as the behaviour of an overindulged generation, raised by helicopter parents and lacking in resilience”  /  Oxford Languages and Google

It is very important to realize that overprotective parental care is not about a great love for your child, but about a complete lack of acceptance of his individuality and lack of faith in him. The parent doubts that the child will be able to cope with the tasks set before him/her and strives to do everything for the child himself/herself. And now let’s think about how this will affect the character and behavior of this child in the future?

All of these are great prerequisites for raising a child who never wants to grow up and take on the responsibilities of adulthood.

#2 Avoidant attachment

The type of attachment (Bowlby’s type of attachment theory) is directly related to how we see ourselves and others. These mental models determine how we regulate our emotions, what we expect from a relationship, and how we interpret any actions of a partner. People with avoidant attachment believe they are worthy of love, at least able to convince themselves of it, and suppress any doubts about it. But the people around them, in their opinion, are completely unreliable and not worthy of much trust. This explains their tendency to change their love partners frequently.

#3 The Narcissistic Black Hole 

Narcissistic personality disorder is a disorder in which people have an unreasonably high sense of self importance. They need excessive attention to themselves and want people to admire them. People with this disorder have difficulty understanding other people’s feelings or showing concern for others.

Many people think that a narcissistic personality is a person with a big ego and high self-esteem, but this is not quite true. With regard to the narcissist, psychologists emphasize the concept of the “narcissistic black hole” which he tries so avidly to fill with the feelings and admiration of others.

So, a brief psychological profile of someone with Peter Pan syndrome:

  • They are difficult to socialize.
  • They fear loneliness.
  • They have difficulty dealing with stressful situations.
  • They get crushed when there’s a question of commitment. They try to avoid responsibility and are good at finding excuses and justifications for their postparts.
  • They are unable to solve their problems on their own.
  • They are unable to achieve their personal goals because they may simply not exist.
  • They find it difficult to establish reliable trusting relationships, so they change friends and partners frequently.
  • They proceed only from immediate wants and needs. They are very impulsive .
  • They have a strong tendency toward mood disorders such as depression. They are prone to tantrums.
  • They often exhibit passive-aggressive behavior . Prone to displaying verbal aggression and never express with certainty what they are feeling or thinking.

What can we do?

The most global problem of such people is that they represent people with great resistance for personal change. Regardless, there are several ways and approaches to remedy the situation. Let’s look at a few below. But it’s still worth a try. What can we do now?

 1. Explain and educate them on the consequences of not accepting responsibility

Any child needs to understand what happens when they behave irresponsibly . The result can be social isolation, loneliness, loss of trust in loved ones, and so on. Look for and try out what your Peter Pan responds to.

2. Don’t play his games

The problem with the person with Peter Pan Syndrome is that he always finds his Wendy. In other words, in many couple relationships there is an infantile person and a figure who heals and rescues the infantile adult . For a while this union may suit both, but eventually Wendy’s resources are exhausted and the relationship is doomed to failure and suffering. In a relationship, it is important to have a balance of give and take.

3. Seek help from a specialist

There are psychological triggers behind Peter Pan syndrome that need to be understood and addressed. Attachment issues, scars from dysfunctional upbringing and poor emotion management can be corrected with professional psychological support. Only an experienced therapist can pull out a person who has been deeply traumatized in childhood and necessarily with the unconditional willingness of the client.

Love and support him, as long as you have the personal resources to do so. However, remember that the “eternal boy” unconsciously is able to do your psyche significant harm, constantly manipulating you and swinging “emotional swings” to the limit in one direction or the other.