Peter Pan Syndrome: Why Some People Refuse to Grow Up

To have a clearer idea of Peter Pan syndrome, Youth Time Magazine has interviewed Babita Spinelli, a licensed psychotherapist/psychoanalyst, and a life coach.

Peter Pan is a fictional character, a young boy who can fly and never grows up. This character was created by J.M. Barrie, a Scottish novelist, and playwright. Peter Pan flies all over the island called Neverland and he has a never-ending childhood.

Have you ever heard of a syndrome associated with this character?

Peter Pan Syndrome is a metaphor based on the concept of not growing up and being trapped in childhood. Thus this term is used to describe a socially immature adult. For the first time, this term was used by Dr. Dan Kiley in his publication The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up in 1983.

To have a clearer idea of this syndrome, Youth Time Magazine has interviewed Babita Spinelli, a licensed psychotherapist/psychoanalyst, and a life coach.

According to Spinelli: “Peter Pan Syndrome are individuals who just don’t want to grow up.” She explains that these people avoid the personal or professional responsibilities of adulthood.

“They may also find adult responsibilities to be a challenge and tend to avoid them or shift them to others.”


Peter Pan Syndromes

Spinelli listed the main characteristics of a person with Peter Pan Syndrome. According to her, the main characteristics are as follows:

  • Patterns of being unreliable
  • Preference to live today and show little interest in long term vision
  • Avoidance of addressing relationship issues
  • Inability to make a commitment
  • Low emotional maturity
  • Procrastination
  • Little effort at work
  • Tendency to not take ownership
  • Difficulty handling conflict
  • Reliance on other people to take care of them


As in many other conditions, this syndrome is related to childhood. Spinelli explains that growing up in an abusive or neglectful household where you were always shut down and you never really learned how to be an adult can lead to Peter Pan Syndrome.

“The fear and insecurity you grew up with manifests into an adult who isn’t sure of themselves and is afraid of doing the wrong thing. So they avoid doing anything. In the end, it all comes down to what you learn as a kid, and what modeled for you.”


Is Peter Pan Syndrome a Mental Health Problem?

Although a person with this syndrome may have trouble as an adult, keep in mind that this syndrome is not officially a mental health problem. She states that this syndrome may be related to other mental health problems.

“It is a combination of patterns of behaviors and traits shared by those who aren’t ready to take that true step to adulthood. Peter Pan Syndrome may have a narcissistic personality disorder.”

Spinelli explains that Peter Pan Syndrome can affect both men and women, but it appears more often among men.

“Although Peter Pan Syndrome can apply to both genders, women have the need to nurture from childhood.”

Also, a role here plays the cultural background. If a person comes from a culture where parents “tend to be overprotective or elevate the status of the child because of gender, there is a risk of creating Peter Pan Syndrome.”

But if it’s not officially a mental disorder, can it be treated? Of course, yes. Peter Pan Syndrome can still be treated through ongoing psychotherapy. Spinelli states that you can learn to take responsibilities later in life if you truly commit to therapy or coaching.

Illustration: AntiDeviL/

If you want to read more about psychology check this out:

What Is Reverse Psychology, and How Does It Work?

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