10 signs of an emotionally immature adult, according to psychology

Going through life with a child-like wonder is one thing, acting like a big kid is quite another.

When someone lacks emotional maturity they have a tendency to hurt both themselves and those around them.

That’s because it’s such an important aspect of our personal development that impacts our relationships, decision-making abilities, and overall well-being.

It’s time to grow up!

Here are some all-important signs of an emotionally immature adult to watch out for.

1) They seem to have zero awareness of how they come across

They are the person who is making a scene, oblivious to the horror of countless onlookers.

They speak their mind with little thought of how it will be interpreted.

They’re oblivious to what people truly think of them.

The reason for this is that they are lacking in any self-awareness.

Before we can consider how our behavior is likely to be viewed by other people, we have to be able to reflect on ourselves.

That’s not a skill that emotionally immature adults have yet learned.

We need to know what makes us tick and the reason we do certain things.

However, they are still unaware of their own emotions and how they impact themselves and those around them.

This lack of self-awareness can also lead to emotional outbursts and irrational behavior, as we’ll come to see.

2) They are prone to making rash decisions and doing things they later regret

Act now, think later.

Unfortunately, immature adults have a habit of impulsive behavior.

They don’t think things through. They can’t create enough space around their emotional urges to step back from them.

From the outside, that probably looks like they make a series of seemingly stupid choices, one after the other.

What’s happening is that they act on their immediate feelings without considering the longer-term consequences.

Teenagers are famous for this sort of stupidity, whether it’s joy riding, getting blind drunk, or putting themselves in some other sort of dangerous situation.

But it should be something we grow out of as we mature.

Adults who haven’t yet done so still make hasty decisions and have difficulty controlling themselves.

They may use excuses like: “I just couldn’t help myself”.

But this only serves to highlight that next point on our list.

3) They have a hard time taking responsibility

One of the best bits of childhood is how unburdened we get to be by life.

Nothing is yet down to us. We are reliant on others and we don’t need to step up to the plate.

Responsibility can feel like both a blessing and a curse.

Sure, it can mean extra stress and pressure in certain situations. But it also makes us the masters of our own destiny as well.

But a hallmark of emotional immaturity is the reluctance to accept responsibility.

Instead, emotionally immature adults prefer to find scapegoats. That way they can blame others for their problems and refuse to take ownership of their actions.

This can show up in a victim mentality where life is out to get them.

It can mean that they struggle to see how their own feelings, thoughts, and actions contribute significantly to their circumstances.

You may find that some emotionally immature adults have a hard time saying sorry.

That’s because they struggle to own their shortcomings and mistakes, as we’ll see next.

4) They can’t handle being wrong

None of us particularly enjoy being wrong.

But those of us who have grown up, accept that it happens. When it does, we have to hold our hands up.

Yet emotionally immature adults will have a very hard time doing this.

They also hate to get feedback, even when it’s constructive.

They cannot handle criticism as they haven’t gotten their childish ego under control.

So they take any form of suggestion personally, often reacting defensively or becoming overly sensitive.

The tricky part is that constructive criticism is essential for personal growth and self-improvement.

Without the ability to acknowledge our mistakes and areas where we have room for improvement, we’re not going to be able to learn from them.

5) They don’t use their words

My friend has a toddler right now who is always getting frustrated, as typical toddlers do.

When she is on the verge of a tantrum, my patient friend will lovingly say to her:

“Try to use your words”.

Sadly, there are plenty of adults out there who still haven’t quite managed it.

As a consequence, they cannot communicate effectively.

Instead, they might resort to passive-aggressive behavior, avoidance, or aggressive confrontation. 

This makes it really challenging to engage in open dialogues with them.

It can also mean that they have a habit of creating more conflict, yet aren’t particularly skilled at resolving it.

But it’s not just anger or irritation they have a hard time talking about, it’s expressing emotions in general.

So they could find it difficult to articulate whatever they are feeling, instead preferring to bottle it up — perhaps even resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Only through emotional maturity can we learn to speak with vulnerability, assertiveness, and honesty.

6) They blow a fuse very easily

It’s not that we should hide how we feel. As we’ve just seen, that doesn’t do any good either.

But we do need to know how to keep a lid on it when it threatens to overpower us.

That goes for the wide range of emotions we’re all prone to experiencing.

People who often:

  • Scream and shout
  • Lose their temper all too quickly
  • Burst into tears over every little thing
  • Experience frequent mood swings
  • Overreact to minor stressors

…aren’t effectively controlling their own emotions, so their emotions have a tendency to control them. 

Emotional regulation is a fundamental aspect of emotional maturity.

7) No matter how many times you explain, they can’t (or refuse) to see your side

When someone seems incapable of getting how you feel, it tells you something:

They are most likely lacking in empathy.

When we’re younger we often focus on how everything affects us — how we feel, what we think.

As we grow in maturity, we learn to factor others into the equation.

Part of that involves trying to understand where people are coming from and putting yourself in their shoes.

But emotionally immature adults often lack empathy and struggle to consider the perspectives and emotions of those around them.

So you may find that they dismiss or invalidate the feelings of others. They just can’t seem to get it and you wonder if they’re even trying to.

It’s easy to see why this can lead to strained relationships and a lack of emotional connection with others.

8) They don’t respect boundaries or have a hard time setting their own

Do you know someone who uses bullying tactics to try to get their own way?

Most of us do (unfortunately) and it smacks of emotional immaturity.

They may even see it as a strength.

Their end game is getting the outcome they require. The method by which they achieve that doesn’t matter to them.

So they will be pushy, tread on toes, use manipulation tactics, and cross boundaries.

On the flip side of this, people who are emotionally immature can also struggle to create their own healthy boundaries too.

Uncomfortable with navigating tricky situations, they may allow others to take advantage of them.

They don’t have the emotional tools yet. In these cases, they often have difficulty saying no or fail to set limits on people’s behavior.

9) They come across as needy or people-pleasing

I mentioned earlier how as children we don’t have responsibility for ourselves. Well, because of this we look to others to get all of our meet our needs.

It has to be this way. Babies seek food, care, and security exclusively from outside sources like their parents.

But as we get older, we learn greater self-sufficiency — both practically and emotionally speaking.

Those who haven’t learned any emotional independence fall into an all too common trap:

They have a strong need for external validation.

They seek constant reassurance and approval from others to feel validated and worthy.

But it’s not healthy, and this reliance on others’ opinions of them leads to low self-esteem and an inability to develop a genuine sense of self-worth.

10) Getting too close to others gives them the ick

Peter Pan syndrome is common in the dating world when you stumble upon an emotionally immature person.

This desire to never grow up seems to mean they shy away from anything real, and dodge commitment at all cost.

Often below the surface what’s going on is a fear of intimacy.

Getting close to someone requires vulnerability and trust.

Emotionally immature adults often avoid deep emotional connections and intimacy because they are scared of getting hurt.

Because of this they always end up in shallow relationships with a sense of emotional detachment.

Final thoughts

I’m not sure any of us simply wake up one day and feel like an adult.

We could probably all do with honing our emotional maturity to strengthen ourselves and our relationships with others.

Personal development is a lifelong journey we commit to.

But with better self-reflection and self-awareness, as well as looking to people who can support us along the way, we can overcome challenges and embrace more emotional growth.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

If you display these 8 traits, you probably grew up with highly critical parents

14 signs you have a strong personality that is hard for others to handle