Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Altered Mental States Infantility. Helping an adult grow up

Infantility. Helping an adult grow up

18.03.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Of course I have my own opinion! Mom, what was it again?

A regular manchild

Sometimes it seems that our world got stuck in childhood and matures slower than it used to. Before, our children ran around unattended until the dead of night, and now students cannot even apply for jobs themselves, they need their mothers to take them to interviews.

This is not far off the mark: culture changes, living environment changes, and so does our attitude towards growing up. The end of adolescence moves from the age of 16 years to 18, and sometimes even 21 years. Higher education gives young people a privilege to become adults later. It is not necessarily bad. A child gets time to mature safely, define their goals, acquire many useful skills and enter adulthood fully armed. However, some people remain immature even at the age of 30 and even 40. An adult simply behaves as a child or a teenager. Such childish behavior and immaturity severely affects their lives, work, social interactions and other spheres of life.

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Today we will talk about infantility and its causes. Let’s learn to distinguish truly immature adults from people who just act goofy and check ourselves for a tendency towards childish behavior. Of course, we will also learn how to become mature and responsible adults.


  1. Definition of infantility
  2. Causes of infantility
  3. Signs of infantility
  4. Features of male and female infantility
  5. Testing for infantility
  6. Getting rid of infantility

Definition of infantility

adult children

Infantility, or infantilism, is an irregularity in development when an adult maintains childish features and behavior. It is important to distinguish between medical and psychological definitions. Medical infantilism usually refers to physical or mental. development delay. Psychological infantility usually appears in physically developed people who have no trouble communicating and learning new things. They just cannot behave like adults.

Here is an example from one forum.

“I was raised by my grandparents, as my parents worked a lot. My grandpas patronized me a lot, for example, telling me: “Vova, you are hungry, come on, let’s eat. And now you want to play with your toys.” I didn’t go to kindergarten, I wasn’t allowed to play with other kids, as they “will be mean” to me A school was a shock: everyone has friends and friend groups, and I sit alone in the corner and dawdle. Well, I dawdle still. I have no family, no friends, no work, and no idea what to do next.”

– Ilya, 27 

In this case infantility is caused by over-protection. A child got used that everyone decides for them, cannot plan and make their own decisions. They simple never learned how to do it.

Childish behavior becomes a habit, a bad and inconvenient one, but it can easily be fixed. In the case above relatives didn’t give their child a chance to develop communication skills, and now that child struggles with being an adult.

What other things can cause learned infantility?

Causes of infantility


All children are born helpless and depend on their parents. Normally, a child gradually detaches from them and learns to be independent, learns to walk, eat, dress themselves, sort out the mess with toys, pack their bag for school, plan their studies etc. If parents interfere with this process, decide for their children if they feel cold, what clothes to wear and protect them from natural consequences*, then a child simply cannot develop an ability to choose and plan, an ability to take responsibility for their actions. Such attitude, of course, is often a manifestation of care, but it can hinder child’s maturing.

Note* Natural consequences are experiences that help a grown-up control their behavior. For example, an adult knows that a phone may break if you throw it at the wall. A broken phone and unnecessary expenses are a natural consequence. If the child is always protected from such natural consequences, for example, by doing their homework for them at night because a child forgot to put it down, then a child will never learn to control their behavior. A child will simply lack understanding of the consequences of their actions.

It is important to note that natural consequences must befit child’s age and be safe.

Tyranny in upbringing

This has a similar effect. If parents dictate a child what they should think, feel and do, a child lacks an opportunity to learn independence.

Pedagogic neglect

A carte blanche given to a child can also make them grow immature, however strange it may seem. Normally, children learn to be independent gradually, along with their brains’ growth and maturing. That is why a burden of responsibility can become crippling, so an older child will try to relieve themselves at any opportunity.

Note. Infantility is not a type of behavior we see in young children. All children have trouble controlling their actions and emotions, they lack foresight etc. Infantility can be noticed first only during adolescence.


A person who has lack of faith in their abilities will refuse to make decisions, take action or responsibility for any action. After all, why struggle if failure is inevitable?

Infantility as a sign of disorder

It is important to note that infantility can be a sign of various diseases and physical disorders. For example, iron deficiency can affect general well-being, a person can become feeble, be in a constant state of fatigue, which will lead them to become indecisive, etc. Also, infantility can be a sign of anxiety and depression. In such case, a person is deprived of the ability to do anything due to their fear or anxiety, or due to the lack of stamina. Please, pay attention to your health and make sure you notice the signs of such disorders.

Those were the most common and tangible causes. There can also be other, less obvious ones, which is why treating manifestations of infantility is more efficient than looking for causes. What are the differences between a full-fledged adult and an infantile? How can we find out whether a person has not matured?

Signs of infantility

Remember how children behave, and you will understand the difference between a mature independent adult and an infantile.

However, children are allowed to display such behavior, as they are still developing and maturing, unlike adults. We must note that psychological infantility is mentioned in various contexts, so different people, including specialists, give different definitions to it.

Emotional, capricious, often whiny. Emotions are a means of communication and a tool for achieving goalsAn adult has a clear understanding of their feelings and can properly display them, taking responsibility for each display of emotions.
They blame others for their own failure, for example, it’s the bench’s fault that they tripped over itThey can take responsibility for their own actions
Lie to get out of troubleReady to face consequences
Emphasize person’s appearance or character, for example, by calling namesEmphasize person’s actions and personal traits
Speak their mind freely, without filtering their thoughts. They do not think about consequencesPay attention to what they say, consider the consequences of their utterances
Want to be in the center of attention and think that others should always care about their own needsUnderstand that the world does not revolve around them
They have no concept of boundaries, easily break them, cannot handle refusal and get hurt when others do not cater to their needsThey respect other people’s boundaries and recognize the right to refuse helping, etc.
Barely learn on their mistakes, often perform the same faulty action over and over againCan analyze the situation and draw conclusions
Cannot plan and think several moves aheadCan set long-term goals and pursue them
Fall back on support from adults, parents are seen as divine beings who bring happiness and well-being.Support themselves, seek happiness within themselves

Here are some things said by people who do not consider themselves grown-ups:

“I don’t want to do anything, I can’t be bothered. I’d rather have someone come and do everything for me. I want a mommy who would cater to me, an older friend who would decide everything for me. I am a child in a body of adult. I’d like to go to Maldives, but I can only dream about that.”

– Leonid, 32

«”Mother always did their best to take care about us, and I tried to support myself, working odd jobs. I am already 21, finished my third year of university, the whole summer awaits me. However, things are tight and I need quite a lot of money. I have no idea what to do and where to work. I’M AFRAID! I’ve been shaking with fear for 2 weeks already, I have less and less time. I even went to a job interview, but got so afraid that I ran away. I have another one tomorrow, but I’m afraid! I’m also ashamed of myself, mother cared about us so much, and I turned up like this, unable to be a proper adult, I cannot handle it. I cannot even sleep well, cannot live properly, I don’t even know if I will or will not run away tomorrow.”

– Olga, 21

Features of male and female infantility

The majority of signs is the same for both men and women. However, there are certain notable features.

Infantility in men

  • This can be seen best in daily routine. Many women agree with the statement that “a man is like a second child”. Boys are often oblivious about doing chores due to their upbringing, for example, by being told: “Don’t wash the dishes, that’s not for boys.” [1] As the result, grown-up men expect others to clean after them, cook them food, wash their laundry etc.
  • At the same time, boys are often taught that they will be responsible not only for themselves, but also for their family (wife and children). This makes boys fly from such responsibility, never having a serious relationship or getting married, as this burden seems unbearable to them.

“Why do I need a wife? Why do I need to buy her clothes and jewelry and let her screw my brains out because of a blown light bulb? I can simply meet a lover at her place once a week, let her worry about giving me food. I keep my place clean, wash my laundry at my mother’s, and washing a cup of coffee is no big deal.

– Petr, 38

Infantility in women

  • Society is much more accepting of infantility in women. This happens due to a stereotype that the head of the family responsible for making decisions is a man, while a woman is expected to be softer and dependent on her family. Some girls are even taught to shift the responsibility to others, first their father, then their husband. [1] As the result, a girl can only decide that she wants a new dress.
  • Also, many women who take the burden of caring about their families (for example, when an ex-husband does not take part in raising children) get eventually tired of excessive responsibility and try to shift it any time they can.

“Any fool can get an education, even two or three majors, earning money for necessities is also not a problem. However, being a real woman is hard. You have to become one through pain and hardship. You have to learn how to ask your husband to buy you things, be timid and do everything as he says. The man is the head of the family, let him think about earning money, while our task is being a jewel of the home.”

– Elena, 29

The following examples were deliberately chosen to illustrate the issue, but infantility is often less obvious. For example, a person earns money and supports themselves perfectly, yet still expects others to cater to their needs and thinks that all people are obligated to help them, while they slack on their duties and chores.

In order to find out which parts of the mindset are still immature, a person should take a full psychological testing. However, you can first take our short test and find out whether you need to change anything in this aspect.

Testing for infantility

Read the following statements and answer “yes” or “no” in order to find out whether you have the issue.

  1. I lack experience to make decisions myself.
  2. I often act without thinking.
  3. People often dislike the things I say.
  4. My actions often overstep socially accepted limits.
  5. I don’t have clear goals in life.
  6. I find it hard to handle many things in life.
  7. I don’t feel the need to analyze the reasons for my actions.

If you have answered “yes” to 3 or more statements, you are likely to have a certain level of immaturity. We recommend you pay more attention to developing your self-sufficiency.

Getting rid of infantility


As you can see, infantility is a habit, or rather the lack of one. For example, if we gain experience by overcoming hardships, we will have it easier the next time they arise. We will already know that we can handle the task, so there is no need to evade it. However, if we lack this experience, any problem will seem much more difficult than it really is. The same goes for making decisions, controlling your spending etc. Those are all skills.

In order to act like an adult, we need to acquire skills and mindset of an adult. For that we must first discover our weak spots, or situations in which we still follow childish patterns.

Behavior and cognitive-behavior therapies are some of the most scientifically grounded schools of thought. Modifying behavior and learning the desired strategies are the easiest and most accessible ways to treat infantility. For example, 7Spsy behavior modification technique will help you solve the problem in just 2-6 weeks. This method will help you even if you feel uncomfortable talking about personal issues with a psychologist yet want to become more self-sufficient and self-confident. After you pass the test, our psychologists will offer you helpful behavior strategies and will support you in mastering them.

We will motivate you to live and develop your life fully!

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

You can try and find for yourself the situations which promote your lack of independence and change your usual behavior, or you can ask specialists for help. Whichever you choose, never forget: you can control your behavior.


  1. Y. Guseva, «Nezhnye mal’chiki, sil’nye devochki».
  2. Ispol’zovany materialy knigi Virdzhinii Kvinn «Prikladnaya psihologiya».