What is Peter Pan Syndrome: Causes, Signs, Therapy

Adulthood and maturity vary significantly. Some people live with their families for a lifetime and would show adulthood by marrying and having children. Adulthood can also be living independently and away from parents. Some cultures even feel living separately as abandoning one’s duties from parents. There are different criteria for determining adult hood.

What is Peter Pan Syndrome?

Peter pan syndrome is a person’s inability to believe that they are adults and are stubbornly resistant to take up any responsibilities of adulthood or adopt social norms associated with growing old. Peter Pan is seen occurring more in males but a study suggests that it is not that always it occurs in males.(1)

What Causes Peter Pan Syndrome?

Peter Pan can be a result of numerous complex factors:

  1. Childhood Experiences

    Certain parenting styles can make people not learn adult-like skills. This makes them avoid responsibilities and commitments and focus on freedom and escapism.

    Peter Pan syndrome is mostly seen in children of overly protective or permissive parents.

    Permissive Parenting: The permissive parent does not set boundaries on kids. As they grow up, they feel whatever they do or want is okay. If anything is done wrong by such kids, permissive parents are the ones who take care of any fallout and protect them from any blame. These children never learn that certain actions have any consequences.

    Protective Parenting: Protective parents make a child feel that the word adult is full of difficulties. They encourage the child to enjoy childhood and fail to teach them other skills such as simple repair skills, house cleaning, and relationship maintenance.

    Protective parents also avoid discussing adult concepts as the child grows.

  2. Anxiety

    As adulthood can be challenging, some people refuse to grow up. Adulthood makes people think about getting a job, earning a living, or other measures for success. Peter pan syndrome is an escape from these responsibilities. That is the reason why such people refuse to grow up.

  3. Gender Roles

    In most families the women are socialized to take up household responsibilities, take care of children and do emotional labor. This might make is easier for a man to abandon these duties and avoid adulthood.

  4. Economic Factors

    Lower wages and fewer opportunities can lead to low motivation and make people adopt a career they feel less enthusiastic about.

    Financial responsibilities can lead to Peter Pan syndrome.

Signs of Peter Pan Syndrome

Those with peter pan syndrome have difficulty in surviving in the world alone. Such people may:

  • Neglect household chores and child care responsibilities
  • Avoid laundry until they run out of clothes
  • Prefer to live in today
  • Avoid addressing relationship issues in a productive way
  • Spend money unwisely

Work-Related Signs:

People with Peter Pan syndrome tend to struggle with the job and career goals. They may:

  • Make fewer efforts at work
  • Would feel bored, challenged, or stressed and would leave job frequently
  • Take up just part-time work
  • Not go ahead with goal or promotions oriented jobs
  • Make least effort to find a job

Behavioral Signs:

The behavioral signs would be like:

  • Emotional outburst in stressful situations
  • No interest in personal growth
  • Fear of Negative evaluation
  • There would be little or no personal growth
  • Blame others when things go wrong

Therapy For Peter Pan Syndrome

An individual’s failure to grow up affects the people around them. The partner of such an individual may get exhausted as he would have to take over all the household responsibility. A person with Peter Pan might not see the symptoms as problematic and may only seek help when they find their relationships in danger.

Family therapy and couple therapy can help the affected person as well as the entire family.

Individual counseling would help a person understand their reluctance to grow up and understand the factors such as trauma and plan up the transition to adulthood.

A therapist, with manageable steps, can help a person improve his life steadily.