Adults who haven’t grown up emotionally usually display these 8 subtle behaviors

Growing up physically is a natural process, but emotional maturity? That’s a different ballgame.

Emotional growth doesn’t always keep pace with our birthdays. Some adults, believe it or not, are still kids on the emotional front.

These ‘adult children’ often reveal their true selves through subtle behaviors. You might even know someone like this, without realizing it.

In this article, we’ll unmask the eight subtle behaviors that hint at an adult’s emotional immaturity. And trust me, once you know what to look for, you’ll start spotting them everywhere.

1) Difficulty managing emotions

Emotional maturity is, in essence, a mastery of one’s feelings.

You know that moment when something upsets you, and instead of blowing up, you take a deep breath and handle it calmly? That’s emotional maturity at work.

But for those who haven’t quite ‘grown up’ emotionally, managing their feelings can be a real challenge.

They might be quick to anger or excessively sensitive to criticism. Or perhaps they have trouble expressing happiness without going over the top.

These are all signs of an adult who hasn’t learned how to regulate their emotions effectively – a key sign of emotional immaturity.

It’s not about the intensity of the emotion, but rather how it’s managed. A mature adult can feel intense emotions without letting them take control. 

2) Struggling with empathy

This is a big one. 

Empathy, that ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a hallmark of emotional maturity.

But emotionally immature adults? Not so much. They often have a hard time stepping outside their own perspective and seeing things from another person’s point of view.

Let me give you an example from my own life.

I had a friend, let’s call her Jane. Jane is incredibly fun and lively, but she has a blind spot when it comes to empathy. One day, I shared with her a personal struggle I was going through. Instead of offering understanding or comfort, she quickly shifted the conversation back to her own problems.

It wasn’t that Jane didn’t care about me; she just found it difficult to really grasp what I was feeling. This lack of empathy was a clear sign of her emotional immaturity.

Keep an eye out for this behavior – it can give you valuable insight into someone’s emotional development and save you some pain. 

3) Avoidance of responsibility

Emotionally mature adults understand that actions have consequences, and they willingly accept responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions.

In contrast, those who haven’t emotionally grown up tend to dodge responsibility whenever they can. This avoidance can take many forms: blaming others, making excuses, or even pretending the issue simply doesn’t exist.

This tendency to avoid responsibility is a key indicator of a person’s emotional age. It’s a subtle sign, but once you know what to look for, it’s hard to miss.

4) Over-dependence on others

It’s perfectly normal to lean on others for support during tough times. But there’s a difference between seeking support and being overly dependent.

Emotionally immature adults often rely heavily on others to meet their emotional needs. They might look to their friends, family or significant others to make them feel happy, validated or secure.

Rather than standing on their own two feet, they lean too heavily on the people around them. This over-dependence can be burdensome for their loved ones and is another subtle sign of emotional immaturity.

Being aware of this behavior can help you understand the emotional maturity level of the people in your life.

5) Inability to handle conflict

Conflict is a part of life. Whether it’s a disagreement with a friend, a spat with a partner, or a clash with a co-worker, we all face conflicts from time to time.

But how we handle these conflicts says a lot about our emotional maturity.

Emotionally mature adults are able to navigate these situations with respect and understanding. They listen to the other person’s point of view, express their own feelings clearly and work towards a resolution.

On the other hand, emotionally immature adults often struggle with conflict. They might react defensively, refuse to listen or even resort to personal attacks.

This inability to handle conflict constructively can cause relationships to suffer and is a clear indication of emotional immaturity.

It’s not always easy to spot this behavior, but it truly reveals a person’s emotional depth. After all, it’s in the heat of conflict that our true colors often show.

6) Fear of commitment

Commitment can be daunting – be it in relationships, career choices, or even lifestyle changes. It requires a certain level of emotional maturity to make a decision and stick with it.

For adults who haven’t quite matured emotionally, this fear of commitment can be significantly more pronounced. They may jump from job to job, struggle to maintain long-term relationships, or constantly change their life goals.

7) Poor listening skills

Listening is more than just hearing words; it’s about understanding and absorbing what the other person is saying. This requires emotional maturity and patience.

However, adults who haven’t emotionally grown up often lack these listening skills. They might interrupt frequently, zone out while others are talking, or be quick to offer advice without fully understanding the situation.

This inability to listen effectively not only impacts their relationships but also reveals their level of emotional maturity.

8) Self-centeredness

At the core of emotional maturity is the ability to look beyond oneself and consider the feelings and needs of others.

As noted by experts, emotionally immature adults, however, tend to be self-centered. Their thoughts and actions revolve primarily around their own needs and desires, often at the expense of those around them.

This self-centeredness is perhaps the most telling sign of emotional immaturity. It’s not just about being selfish or egotistical, but a fundamental lack of understanding that other people have feelings and needs just as important as their own.

Food for thought: Emotional maturity is a journey

Unpacking the complexities of human emotions and behaviors is no easy feat. Emotional maturity, in particular, is a profound aspect of our psychological makeup.

Those who haven’t grown up emotionally may display the subtle behaviors we’ve discussed. But remember, growth is possible at any age. Emotional maturity isn’t a fixed trait; it’s a continuum that we can progress along throughout our lives.

As we part ways on this topic, I invite you to reflect on your own emotional journey. How far have you come? And more importantly, how far are you willing to go?

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

If you recognize these 7 signs, your relationship is just no longer working

People who had a difficult childhood usually display these 8 traits later in life (according to psychology)