8 signs a man will never grow up, according to psychology

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“All children, except one, grow up.”

That’s one of my favorite quotes from J. M. Barrie’s 1911 novel “Peter and Wendy.”

This is actually referring to Peter Pan—the boy who wouldn’t grow up. 

Of course, we all grow up, physically speaking.

But some adult men just don’t become as emotionally and mentally mature as they probably should. We call these “man-children”.

(Did someone you know already pop into your mind?)

Some psychologists even call it “Peter Pan Syndrome”, based on Dr. Dan Kiley’s 1983 book, “Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up.”

These men can avoid household duties and financial responsibilities or have the social or emotional skills of a teenager—despite being well into adulthood.

Of course, many women can behave this way as well. But it seems like men tend to do it more, or at least more intensely.

Here are some indicators that you’re probably dealing with a man-child. In other words, here are 8 signs a man will never grow up, according to psychology.

Man-children: what exactly are they?

Like the term suggests, a man-child is a man who acts like a child. He is immature and childish, and they don’t act their age.

(As a tangent, I want to point out that there’s a difference between being childlike and being childish. To me, being childlike is seeing the world with curiosity, wonder, and joy—something I firmly believe we should still espouse even into adulthood. Being childish, on the other hand, is just plain immaturity.)

In essence, they speak, behave, and think like a teenage boy. They’ll throw tantrums or roll their eyes when you tell them to take out the trash. 

Actually, the very fact that you need to tell them to perform their responsibilities is indicative of man-childness. You’re not their mom, and they’re not your kids!

Some people say that a good sign is that he has hobbies you’d expect from a teenager, like playing video games or having other nerdy interests.

I personally want to push back on this. I think anyone of any age can have any hobby or interest. But man-children take it a step further when they make these hobbies their whole personality. 

I’ve known people who worked in these industries—a friend is in the esports industry, for example—and yet they still had a life outside of it.

Their social skills are also not up to par. They still talk brashly, are too nosy, don’t know how to socialize at all, or are caught up in drama (what’s this, high school?)

1) He doesn’t deal with conflict or confrontation well

Look, even as adults, conflict and confrontations are hard to deal with. I still have trouble all the time.

But if you’re completely clueless? If you avoid them completely, all the time?

Sorry, but that’s just immature.

Man-children will avoid them as much as possible. They don’t want any tension—all they want is to escape reality and lock themselves in their world of beer and video games.

And actually, that’s one of the reasons why they remain childish. Because they rarely, if ever, experience resolving conflicts, they lack a lot of other general social and emotional skills.

2) He spends his money like a child—and never on you

Look, we’re past the times of men providing everything. Women are more economically independent than ever. 

We can provide for our own, we can split the bill, and we can spoil our man, too.

But a man-child will never treat you. At. All.

Instead, he’ll spend his money on:

  • New video games;
  • Expensive sports shoes;
  • Luxurious jackets;
  • Super rare trading cards;
  • PC parts or consoles;
  • Cool gadgets.

He’ll always, always treat himself (as he should), but never you.

A date at Taco Bell is good enough. The cheapest motel room is good enough. A cheap gift card for your birthday is enough.

This is because he takes you for granted. He no longer thinks he needs to put in effort to show you his love because he’s under the assumption that you’ll always be there for him, no matter what.

You know, like his mom.

3) He’s financially irresponsible

Actually, you’re already pretty lucky if the man-child in your life even has money.

A lot of man-children are not financially responsible at all.

Look, I know that it absolutely sucks that life as an adult is pretty much a near-endless chase for money. If only we lived in a world where all our needs were provided for, and we could all just laze around all day and enjoy ourselves.

But that’s the reality. 

We need to be financially smart not only to fulfill our needs but also to get the things we want, whether that’s a vacation or some form of luxury.

Man-children, however, will spend their paycheck immediately on instant gratification. They have no savings or investments. They have no budgeting skills. He might even be in debt.

Man-children live life paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s not about how much they earn, really. It’s about what they do with it.

4) He has an unhealthy relationship with his parents

A lot of our behaviors as adults stem from our childhood experiences. Man-children can be the result of either overly clingy parenting or overly strict ones.

A “mama’s boy” might continue being dependent on his mother well into his adulthood. 

Or worse, treat all the other women in his life his mother—it’s a well-documented trend by studies that many men have the Peter Pan Syndrome and treat their partners like their mothers.

Even Carl Jung, one of psychology’s founding fathers, hypothesized that an unhealthy attachment to one’s parents leads to problems with psychological development in boys.

Having overly strict parents could also lead to a man wanting to play around in his adulthood because he didn’t get to do that enough as a child. 

Not to mention, it can really screw up his mental health, which may lead to the problematic behaviors we’re discussing.

5) They can’t take care of themselves

And because they treat their girlfriends, wives, or sisters as their moms, many of these men can’t take care of a household—or even themselves. They’re simply deadbeats around the house.

“They are unable to do anything that would help themselves in a meaningful way or to truly separate from their families of origin,” Gauri Khurana, M.D said.

They can’t cook, clean, or manage the household to any competent degree. 

Morbidly curious?

Try not doing any of the chores for just a week. See how much of a mess the house is after.

6) They have an addictive personality

A man-child is often characterized by a hedonistic, live-and-let-live personality style.

They’ll claim that they’re just “living in the moment” (read: live paycheck-to-paycheck).

They won’t admit it (they may not even have the maturity to realize it), but the truth is that many of these man-children are addicted to something:

  • Video games;
  • Gambling;
  • Alcohol;
  • Pornography;
  • Drugs;
  • Their smartphone.

Of course, we all have hobbies. As I said, it doesn’t even matter what the hobby is.

What separates man-children is how they shirk their responsibilities because they’re so addicted to their vices.

7) He can’t plan

If a man can’t even take care of the day-to-day household chores, do you think he can plan for the future?

Their irresponsibility and inexperience, combined with their addictive, hedonistic lifestyle, make man-children unable or unwilling to plan for the future.

It’s why their debt is piling up or why their bank account is always dry. It’s why they don’t need to see to improve themselves.

But it’s also why they’re afraid of commitment

The thought of changing their comfortable lives right now for a large change is daunting to them. 

They’d rather keep living the life of fun they have now.

8) He throws tantrums

I remember a story where the nail in the coffin for my friend’s ex was how he responded when she asked him to do better.

The man—*ahem*, man-child—literally threw tantrums when she was trying to have a proper conversation with him.

He was moaning and groaning and crying like a three-year-old who had his toy taken away from him. She got fed up at that point, and she broke up with him a week later.

The truth is that too many men are emotionally stunted. They either suppress them or express them but do so in immature, childish ways.

Man-children in the workplace

While I mostly talked about how man-children behave in their personal lives (at home or in the context of intimate relationships), they can just be as problematic at work.

In the workplace, man-children:

  • Are often late or absent (they’re busy doing something “fun”);
  • Don’t perform well;
  • Rely on their colleagues to do most of the work in projects;
  • Often get fired and are constantly job-hopping
  • Are far more easily stressed than others;
  • Don’t care about upskilling.

What’s ironic is that even if they don’t put in the work, they’re delusional enough to dream about being at the top of their field. 

They have childish dreams of being a professional athlete or being the next Elon Musk—without doing anything to get closer to those dreams.

Meanwhile, their coworkers are likely exhausted from doing most of their work.

Conclusion: how to deal with man-children

Okay, so now you know what a man-children is. Now, you might have just realized that a certain man in your life is a man-child.

Now what?

Well, here’s the thing: I know that man is probably important to you for whatever reason.

The choice is yours, really: do you stay or leave?

If you stay, you’ll either suffer trying to take care of him or try to get him to change.

I’ll leave you with this: no matter what you do, he’ll only change if he wants to change. 

Anna Dovbysh

With 8 years of writing experience and a deep interest in psychology, relationship advice, and spirituality, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting self-development topics and share some life advice. She's got a Master's Degree in International Information and is a life-long learner of writing and storytelling. In the past, she worked on a radio station and a TV channel as a journalist and even tought English in Cambodia to local kids. Currently, she's freelancing and traveling around the globe, exploring new places, and getting inspired by the people she meets and the stories they tell. Subscribe to her posts and get in touch with her on her social media:
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