12 classic signs of an emotionally immature adult, according to psychology

We’ve all heard of it:

Failure to launch. 

There are individuals who never seem to mature, regardless of their age. This phenomenon isn’t just a myth, we’ve all experienced it in folks around us, and sometimes in ourselves. 

The fact is that some people remain entrenched in patterns of childhood behavior and evade the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. 

Psychology offers valuable insights into identifying and understanding these individuals. Let’s delve into the characteristics of folks who remain emotionally immature despite being an adult: 

1) They dodge responsibility

Immature individuals strongly dislike responsibility, exhibiting a reluctance to be held accountable for their actions. 

They just don’t want to hear about it when they make a mistake, and they’re not interested in taking on any optional responsibility. 

When confronted, they vanish or offer a slew of excuses, refusing to acknowledge their mistakes or apologize sincerely. 

They’re emotionally stunted in terms of having the internal sense of self and bravery to take on any responsibility. 

They seem oblivious to the notion that life demands accountability, preferring to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.

2) They still rely emotionally on their parents

Individuals who fail to mature often maintain overly close relationships with their parents, particularly their mothers. 

There’s clearly nothing wrong with being close to one’s parents, but highly emotionally immature folks take it too far.

They depend on their parents to assure them that everything will be OK and have no real sense of internal security independently. 

This also transfers over into relationships. 

This reliance can result in expecting their partners to assume a maternal role, catering to their needs and providing emotional support akin to a parent. 

However, this dynamic lacks the essence of genuine love and mutual respect and is much more of an unhealthy form of codependency.

3) They have no life goals

Immature individuals lack tangible ambitions or aspirations for the future. 

They procrastinate, offering vague promises of “one day,” yet fail to take concrete steps toward their goals. 

This perpetual delay serves as a placeholder for an idealized future that never materializes, revealing a reluctance to confront reality or make meaningful commitments.

At the root of this lack of goals is often a crippling emotional fear of what would happen if they’re not good enough or fall short of their goals.

As psychologist Michelle McQuaid, PhD. writes:

“Behavioral science tells us that the anticipation or fear of failure is far worse than the pain we experience if things don’t go right. 

This is important to flag as it’s something that holds many people back.”

4) They’re financially reckless

Financial recklessness is another trait that characterizes emotionally immature individuals, who often exhibit a disregard for fiscal prudence. 

They overspend, make poor investments, and exhibit a cavalier attitude toward money, often assuming that someone else will bail them out. 

This is closely linked to the avoidance of taking responsibility and an inability to regulate emotions. 

By using money as a way to feel good and consumer therapy, the emotionally immature person hopes to feel better about themselves. 

5) They hang out with immature people

Emotionally immature individuals tend to gravitate toward like-minded companions who are also not very emotionally mature. 

They form relationships with individuals who share their lack of emotional maturity and often feed off of each other in unhealthy ways. 

Their social circle is made of individuals who prioritize frivolity over personal growth, engaging in juvenile antics that belie their chronological age.

This is because they draw people toward them who have a similar pot of energy. 

As Shannon Cutts writes:

“When we meet someone who seems to come from our same or similar ‘pot’ of energy, the organic (first kind) of friendship takes place. It is effortless. We just ‘get’ one another.”

6) They’re impulsive and lack conscientiousness

Immature individuals struggle to regulate their impulses and recognise the negative effects of what they do.

They act impulsively, indulging their desires without considering the consequences or how their actions impact others. 

Whether that means hooking up with somebody by making false promises or by overspending money that they already promised to pay for a bill, they tend to just “wing it” and try to forget the consequences or who gets hurt by their actions.

Their inability to empathize results in a self-centered worldview, where they prioritize their needs over the well-being of those around them.

7) They throw temper tantrums and outbursts

pic2035 12 classic signs of an emotionally immature adult, according to psychology

Emotionally immature individuals exhibit difficulty controlling their temper, often resorting to tantrums or verbal abuse when faced with adversity. 

Their reactions are often disproportionate to the situation, reflecting an inability to manage frustration or disappointment maturely.

In many cases this is because they weren’t raised by parents who instilled enough discipline in them at an early age. 

“Parents should seek to instill emotional self-regulation skills at an early age to mitigate the effect of distressing experiences that might otherwise precipitate a tantrum,” notes pediatric psychologist Daniel Flint, PhD.

8) They’re highly commitmentphobic

Commitment-phobia is prevalent among emotionally immature individuals, who shy away from long-term relationships or significant life commitments. 

If they are in a long-term relationship, they tend to buck the trend and try to get out of them. 

Despite desiring companionship, they recoil from genuine commitment, fearing the responsibilities and potential risks inherent in serious relationships.

In many cases this relates to trauma and neglect in early childhood which fed into an avoidant attachment style. 

Sadly, this avoidant attachment style often continues to typify their behavior into adult life. 

9) They resist and get angry at feedback

Emotionally immature individuals struggle to accept criticism, even if it’s constructive feedback. 

They perceive any form of critique as a personal attack, reacting defensively and refusing to acknowledge their shortcomings. 

Their inability to handle feedback impedes personal growth and fosters a stagnant mindset.

They don’t want to grow or change, becoming convinced that any well-meaning feedback is still an attack on them. 

This tends to lead to an intensification of the issues they already have.

10) They’re prone to addictive behaviors they can’t or won’t control

Emotionally immature individuals often resort to addictive behaviors or substance abuse as coping mechanisms. 

They use substances to numb their emotional distress or seek solace in self-destructive habits, perpetuating a cycle of avoidance and escapism.

They use addictive behaviors for a similar reason, to push down feelings of unworthiness and chase a short-term high that makes them feel everything will be OK (even if it’s just for a moment). 

As the University of North Carolina at Wilmington notes:

“An addictive behavior is compulsively engaging in the same behavior (we will refer to as “it”) despite having negative or harmful consequences to your wellbeing (which may include: physical health, friends/family/romantic relationships, sex drive, risky situations, legal issues, financial concerns, academic challenges.”

11) They’re constantly seeking attention and validation

Emotionally immature individuals crave constant attention and validation.

They feel like unless they’re being showered with praise, recognition or love they’re not getting what they deserve. 

This goes hand-in-hand with an intense sense of entitlement and demand to be the center of attention.

They sulk or become attention-seeking if not given the desired level of recognition, fostering conflicts and strained relationships due to their incessant need for validation.

12) They suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome or a Cinderella Complex

Individuals who perpetually resist maturity are sometimes said to suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome in the case of men or a Cinderella Complex in the case of women.

Coined by psychologist Dan Kiley in the 1980s, Peter Pan Syndrome describes individuals who cling to a childlike fantasy world despite their adult age. 

The Cinderella Complex is similar, describing women who always cling to the idea of somebody coming to “save” them and consequently don’t emotionally mature beyond a young age psychologically. 

“The term was made popular by author Colette Dowling back in the 1980s, when she published a book of the same name,” explains Andrea Darcy. 

“The idea she proposes is that women are raised to be dependent, and this unconscious need to be protected and saved leads to a constant tendency to sabotage success and happiness.”

It encapsulates the persistent refusal to embrace adult responsibilities and realities.

Recognizing these signs can help identify individuals struggling with immaturity, but addressing these issues often requires professional therapeutic intervention and significant personal introspection.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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