If you recognize these 10 specific behaviors, you’re dealing with an emotionally childish adult

We’ve all encountered them – adults who react and deal with things like children. It can be frustrating and confusing, especially when their actions impact us directly.

The challenge is recognizing these emotionally immature behaviors for what they are. You see, emotional maturity isn’t always tied to age. There are plenty of grown-ups out there who, for whatever reason, have never evolved past the emotional age of a 12-year-old.

Spotting these behaviors is key to understanding how to interact with these individuals. If you’re familiar with these 10 specific signs, you’ll be better equipped to navigate these tricky waters.

Ready? Let’s jump in. 

1) They struggle with empathy

Emotional maturity goes hand in hand with empathy. It’s about understanding and sharing the feelings of others.

But if you’re dealing with someone who is emotionally childish, you might notice a lack of this crucial trait. They may struggle to see things from another person’s perspective or to respond in a caring manner when someone else is upset.

Remember, empathy isn’t just about feeling bad for someone. It’s about truly understanding their emotions and responding appropriately.

2) They avoid responsibility

We all know that life is full of responsibilities. But for an emotionally childish adult, taking responsibility for their actions can be a struggle.

I remember dealing with a friend who would always find someone else to blame when things went wrong. He was late for dinner because the traffic was terrible, not because he left late.

His project at work failed because his team didn’t support him, not because he failed to lead them effectively.

It was never his fault, according to him.

This habit of avoiding responsibility and shifting blame is a clear sign of emotional immaturity. Mature adults understand that they have control over their actions and that they must own up to their mistakes when they make them.

3) They have poor impulse control

Impulse control is a part of our brain’s executive functions, which mature as we grow. However, in some adults, this development seems to stall.

The ability to control our impulses allows us to think before we act, to evaluate the consequences of our actions and make considered decisions. It’s what stops us from eating an entire tub of ice cream in one go or from buying something expensive that we don’t need.

Interestingly, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control, doesn’t fully mature until around the age of 25. This is why teenagers and young adults are often more impulsive than older adults.

An emotionally immature adult might act on their impulses without considering the consequences, whether it’s a spontaneous purchase, a rushed decision, or an outburst of anger. This lack of impulse control is a clear sign of emotional immaturity.

4) They struggle with emotional regulation

We all experience a roller coaster of emotions on a daily basis. It’s part of being human. However, how we manage and respond to these emotions is a clear indicator of our emotional maturity.

Emotionally immature adults often struggle with emotional regulation, meaning they have difficulty managing their responses to emotional stimuli. This could show up as frequent emotional outbursts, mood swings, or disproportionate reactions to minor events.

If someone you know tends to lash out in anger, dissolve into tears, or become overly excited over small issues, they might be struggling with emotional regulation.

5) They’re overly defensive

Defensiveness is a normal human reaction when we feel threatened or attacked. But when it becomes a constant pattern, it might be a sign of emotional immaturity.

Emotionally immature adults often perceive criticism, even constructive criticism, as a personal attack. They might react by deflecting the blame, making excuses, or launching a counter-attack rather than accepting and learning from the feedback.

For example, if you gently point out a mistake they made and they immediately get defensive or start blaming others, that’s a clear indicator of emotional immaturity.

6) They have a hard time with compromise

Life is full of compromises. It’s about give and take, understanding and meeting each other halfway. This is especially true in relationships, where both parties need to work together to create a balanced and harmonious bond.

However, emotionally immature adults often struggle with this concept. They may insist on having their way, disregarding the needs and feelings of others. It’s either their way or no way.

I’ve seen how this can strain relationships and create a lot of heartache. It’s painful to deal with someone who is unwilling to meet you halfway, who places their needs above yours consistently.

Compromise is a cornerstone of emotional maturity and mutual respect. If the person you’re dealing with struggles with this concept, it’s a clear sign of emotional immaturity.

7) They’re fixated on instant gratification

Patience is a virtue, as they say. Being able to delay gratification and work towards long-term goals is a sign of emotional maturity.

However, emotionally immature adults tend to be fixated on instant gratification. They want what they want, and they want it now. This can manifest in many ways – impulsive shopping, overeating, or even demanding attention and affirmation constantly.

I’ve struggled with this in the past, always looking for the next quick fix or momentary high. It took time and a lot of introspection to realize that instant gratification rarely leads to lasting happiness or satisfaction.

If you notice that someone is constantly chasing after immediate rewards and lacks the patience for long-term goals, they might be emotionally immature.

8) They don’t respect boundaries

Personal boundaries are crucial for healthy relationships and self-preservation. But guess what? Emotionally immature adults often struggle to respect them.

It might seem that someone who doesn’t respect boundaries is simply inconsiderate or impolite. But it goes deeper than that. It’s not just about manners, it’s about emotional intelligence.

Respecting boundaries means understanding and acknowledging the emotional and personal space of others. It’s about knowing where you end and the other person begins.

9) They constantly seek attention

We all enjoy a bit of attention. It feels good to be acknowledged and appreciated. However, there’s a difference between enjoying attention and constantly seeking it.

Emotionally immature adults often crave attention, whether positive or negative. They might go out of their way to be noticed, make everything about them, or resort to dramatic behavior just to be the center of attention.

This constant need for attention stems from an inability to validate themselves. Mature adults understand that while external validation is nice, self-validation is crucial.

10) They struggle with authentic relationships

At the heart of emotional maturity is the ability to form and maintain authentic relationships. These are relationships built on mutual respect, understanding, and genuine care for one another.

Emotionally immature adults often struggle with this. Their relationships might be superficial, volatile, or based on manipulation. They might have difficulty maintaining long-term relationships or friendships.

This struggle often stems from their inability to navigate the complexities of an authentic relationship – from compromise and empathy to respect and emotional vulnerability.

Embrace the journey: grow through emotional maturity!

In essence, spotting signs of emotional immaturity is a crucial step toward understanding and supporting personal growth

Emotional maturity isn’t a fixed point we reach but a continuous journey of self-discovery and growth. It calls for self-awareness, effort, and patience as we navigate our feelings, empathize with others, and hold ourselves accountable.

Remember, everyone’s journey toward emotional maturity is unique, and progress takes time. What counts is the commitment to learning and evolving, regardless of age or experience. It’s a journey of ongoing growth and self-improvement.

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.

4 things high achievers never do in the morning, according to psychology

People who feel disconnected from others as they age often display these 10 behaviors (without realizing it)