Constantly throwing tantrums. Consistently shutting down. Stuck in their childish ways.
According to Dr. Tracy Hutchinson, an experienced psychotherapist and academic, emotionally immature individuals consistently and chronically behave like children or adolescents – much like the ones described above.
Note that consistency and chronicity are the keywords.
So, while we all have our occasional moments of petty and childlike behaviors, they don’t instantly make us emotionally immature.
Immature personality disorders can only be diagnosed by qualified mental health professionals, but there are certain traits shared by emotionally immature individuals, and we list some of them below.
If someone displays these 11 behaviors, they’re highly likely an emotionally immature adult:
1) They constantly avoid responsibility
An emotionally immature adult will have a habit of evading responsibility for their errors. They would instead pin the blame on someone or something else rather than own up to their mistakes.
This often happens because they lack self-awareness and don’t see how their actions or decisions played a role in the involved situations.
Because they miss out on the opportunity to learn from these mistakes, their avoidant behavior can result in repeating the same errors. This inevitably will stunt their personal growth and prevent them from developing resilience.
This could also affect their relationships – they can lose the trust of the people around them.
2) They can’t take criticisms, too
They don’t like taking responsibility, so don’t expect an immature adult to handle criticisms thrown at them, too.
No matter how constructive criticisms are crafted, an emotionally immature adult will always view them as a personal attack, triggering them to act defensively.
This behavior is brought on by their lack of self-esteem, and just like their unwillingness to learn from their mistake, they’re also very much unwilling to learn from others.
Needless to say, it prevents their growth and puts a massive strain on their relationships – unless they surround themselves with people willing to walk on eggshells around them all the time.
3) They default to a reactive response
They react defensively to criticisms and in situations, they respond reactively.
So what is a reactive response?
For emotionally immature adults, this means reacting on impulse without carefully thinking of the consequences of the said reaction.
This is a behavior that stems from their lack of self-regulation:
They haven’t fully developed their ability to control their thoughts, feelings, and impulses resulting in impulsive reactions with disregard for the consequences.
When reacting without thinking, individuals might later feel ashamed, or others might fear hostility and tension. In any case, both of these scenarios could eventually lead to communication breakdowns, if not a total breakdown of the relationship.
4) They have frequent mood swings
Speaking of their inability to emotionally regulate, this results in another emotionally immature behavior:
They often have abrupt and unpredictable mood changes.
What’s sad is that this inconsistency can disrupt their relationships.
Imagine having to deal with someone who has constant mood swings. Not only can it get exhausting, but you’d also be left struggling to guess how to best interact with them from one mood shift to the next.
5) They’re bad at managing boundaries
When it comes to boundaries, an emotionally immature adult finds it difficult to set and respect them. They can’t abide by their boundaries and are just as bad at respecting those set by others.
This behavior reflects their lack of self-respect, inability to prioritize their own needs, and their difficulty respecting the needs of others.
They can suffer extreme stress and burnout if they don’t respect their boundaries. On the other hand, if they continually violate the boundaries of others, they could face resentment, distrust, and frustration.
6) They think in black and white
It is interesting that emotionally immature adults are good at bending or breaking boundaries, but their thinking patterns are strikingly rigid.
They have an absolute mindset and place everything into two distinctly opposite categories. There is no in-between, no middle ground.
For them, people can only be entirely good or entirely bad. People around them are also categorized as either completely with or against them. So, if you disagree with them even just once, expect to be in the “against-me” pile.
Emotionally immature adults only see success or failure, always or never, right or wrong. They can’t see the grey areas because they don’t understand complexities and nuances like most adults do.
7) They’re afraid of being vulnerable
Another thing emotionally immature adults can’t or won’t do is allow themselves to be vulnerable around others.
Think about it:
Why would they allow anyone to see their vulnerabilities if they can’t take criticism? Why would they let the “people who are against them” see their weaknesses?
Emotionally immature adults hide their vulnerable side out of fear of being hurt, judged, and rejected.
The thing is, they don’t realize that hiding their vulnerabilities deprives them of the experience of forming deeper and more authentic connections with others.
But that’s not the end of it.
There’s also one more reason why emotionally immature adults avoid showing their weaknesses, and it’s the next item on our list:
8) They crave external validation
Emotionally immature individuals hide their vulnerable versions but only show their good side because they constantly need external validation.
They have an extreme lack of self-confidence and a poor sense of self-worth, so they resort to friends, family, colleagues, or even strangers on social media for their self-esteem boost.
They also frequently struggle with even the smallest of decisions. Believe it or not, they need input from others even for seemingly trivial things, such as what to wear or eat for the day.
They constantly check their social media posts for likes or comments. They always look for praise from others. They always need validation in their relationships.
The decisions of emotionally immature adults are often based on whatever will gain them the approval of the majority.
Sadly, this doesn’t truly build their self-worth. Instead, it places them in a perpetual cycle of relying on others for them to feel valid and worthy.
9) They have an intense need for control
Power is another thing they are hungry for. Again, this interconnects with their other emotionally immature behaviors.
Remember when we said they have a black-and-white mindset? They lack flexibility and can’t handle uncertainties, so they prefer everything done their way.
Emotionally immature adults love to micromanage every detail of their lives.
Unfortunately, by doing this, they’d often be overwhelmed by stress. Eventually, this echoes through and impacts the people around them.
10) They’re void of guilt
We’ve already established that they avoid taking responsibility for their actions, but it gets worse:
Emotionally immature adults do not feel any form of guilt or regret for their actions. To them, remorse is an unfamiliar concept.
This lack of guilt is a sign that they have low emotional intelligence and limited emotional awareness.
They can’t understand nor identify their own emotions, so it’s tough for them to understand the feelings of those they’ve affected, let alone feel bad about causing these feelings.
Ultimately, however, someone void of remorse lacks another critical aspect of emotional maturity: empathy.
This brings us to the last on our list of emotionally immature adult behaviors:
11) They lack empathy
If you look back on the other behaviors on this list, you’ll find that they all relate to a lack of empathy, which is why we saved the most significant for last.
As we said, emotionally immature adults cannot understand the feelings of others. They’re also unable to consider perspectives that aren’t their own, nor can they relate to the experience of others.
This lack of empathy has so many negative ripple effects, which puts a massive strain on the individual’s interactions with others:
- They put their feelings and needs first because they can’t perceive the needs of others.
- They make insensitive comments without realizing the impact it has on others.
- Conflicts arise as a result of failing to see others’ viewpoints.
- Deep bonds are rare, if not impossible.
Paint a picture of empathy
It can be challenging to deal with an emotionally immature adult.
But as they say, be the better person and rise above the negativity.
Since empathy interlinks with all emotionally immature behaviors, use it as a weapon to improve your interactions with emotionally immature adults.
Consistently and persistently respond to them with understanding, and show them the meaningful connection they’re missing out on.
Be the reflection of the empathy that they so severely lack.
Signs of emotional maturity
We’ve gone through the signs that someone is an emotionally immature adult. But what about the signs of emotional maturity?
Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown shares 24 signs of emotional maturity in his YouTube video below.