Peter Pan Syndrome: Why Some Grown-ups Never Really Grow Up

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Peter Pan Syndrome: Why Some Grown-ups Never Really Grow Up

Having been spoiled during their childhood will likely to suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome / Photo by Valerii Sidelnykov via 123RF


Growing up can be a real struggle, especially for those who suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome. Peter Pan, the fairytale character whom the disorder was named after, was a boy who hated growing up. He resides in the fictional place called Neverland where he duels with pirates and remains a kid forever.

Similarly, adults who are affected by the disorder refuse to “adult”. They are stuck in the fantasy that they are still living in their childhood years, so they run away from their responsibilities, from commitment and from their emotions. They are described by ScienceDaily as possessing the body of an adult but having the mind of a child. According to Humbelina Robles Ortega, professor of the Department of Personality, Evaluation, and Psychological Treatment of the University of Granada, this often affects those who come from overprotective families.


As stated by Betterhelp, some of the possible reasons an adult has developed Peter Pan Syndrome are:

Being spoiled in their childhood

If they have been part of a family where the parents catered to their every whim, never punished them and did not make them learn about life skills, they are likely to acquire this syndrome. Even as adults, their parents may have continued to spoil them. Since they were not taught about adult concepts, their maturity tends to stay stagnant.

Being abused as children

Meanwhile, there are others who felt that as children, their childhood was taken away from them by their abusive parents. When they reach adulthood, they will compensate for their lost childhood by regressing.

Being too nostalgic

In today’s society, the longing to bring back one’s childhood has become more emphasized. This is especially highlighted by social media where there are various posts that talk about how things were better for people when they were kids. Although feeling nostalgic is not necessarily wrong, if someone just keeps looking back, this can prevent them from confronting the future.

They were not taught adult skills

Most schools do not educate children about adult skills such as paying the bills and setting an appointment with their doctor. They often focus on academic subjects and neglect teaching them about the skills they need that would help them grow into productive members of the society.

Feeling economic hopelessness

Many millennials view the current economy negatively. They see it as going downhill. Most jobs make them work for long hours but pay them barely enough for them to get by. They also find it hard to advance towards their life goals. Since they are unable to progress, they have the tendency to regress as an attempt to flee from the tragedies of life.

Symptoms ​

An individual who has Peter Pan Syndrome may show the following symptoms or characteristics, PsycholoGenie says:

Dodging responsibilities and seeking pleasure

They will try to stay away from any kind of responsibility and will concentrate on seeking pleasure. They have the inclination to idealize their childhood or adolescent years, which was a time in their life when they were not expected to shoulder any responsibilities.

Breaks promises and blames others

Since they find it difficult to be accountable for their behavior, when a problem arises, they look for someone they can blame. They also have a hard time fulfilling promises they have made. They do not like it when others rely on them.

Afraid of being rejected

They are averse to rejection and are afraid of becoming lonely. As a result, they always try to be in the company of others and want everyone to focus all their attention on them.


Running away from their responsibilities will lead them having a struggle to keep a job / Photo by Vadim Guzhva via 123RF


Do not have confidence

In addition, individuals with this disorder despise criticism and care too much about their looks because of their low self-esteem. This motivates them to draw attention in other ways such as dressing up nicely and talking eloquently to keep others from seeing their negative characteristics.

Struggles with emotion

They also struggle to show what they feel. Since they have not acquired the important coping skills that help one deal with minor setbacks, they immediately get upset. They put on an indifferent facade to shield themselves from the pain.

Afraid of commitment

Men who have Peter Pan syndrome usually get into relationships with women who are many years younger than them. Whenever their romantic partner asks them to be more committed or to take the relationship to a higher level, they withdraw or break up with them. They often choose to be with younger women because they feel that not much would be expected from them.

Cannot have a stable job

Since they are prone to avoiding responsibilities, this means it will also have a hard time with taking on the expected and needed tasks assigned to them at work. Consequently, they will struggle with keeping a job.

Alcohol and substance abuse

As a way to avoid confronting their responsibilities and problems, they pretend that they do not have them. This causes them to become dependent on alcohol and drugs.

Treatment ​

In order to treat Peter Pan Syndrome, other people must slowly explain adult concepts to them, support them only if they return it, and eliminate their distractions. The adult must also consult with a psychiatrist and go through counseling. They may also choose to undergo couple therapy or family therapy.



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