Infantility. Helping an adult grow up

Mar 18, 2019

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

A regular manchild

Sometimes it seems that our world became 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: our culture changes, our 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 the 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.

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

Definition of infantility

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 developmental 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 grandparents 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. School was a shock: everyone had friends and friendship groups, and I sat alone in the corner and dawdled. 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 was caused by over-protection. A child got used to the fact that everyone decides for them. They could not plan and make their own decisions. They simply 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, the 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

For a long time people used to think that only women were susceptible to hysteria. We can see hysterical women in many works of literature, psychological articles, dissertations, and even daily conversation. For example, remember Mrs. Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice”. People always pay attention to her while she manipulates them with her tremors, overreacting to any event, even if it doesn’t affect her directly.

Even though women present this disorder more often, men are also susceptible to it. [4] However, they also find it extremely hard to recognize and comprehend their own hysteria.

There is no shame in being hysterical, regardless of your gender. It is a disease, not a feigning. A hysterical person needs help in overcoming their issues. Of course, only a medical professional can diagnose hysteria, but we can still analyze certain signs of this condition that can help us to recognize it. We will also look at symptoms and treatment of hysteria in women.

Signs of hysterical personality disorder

Over-protection

All children are born helpless and dependent upon their parents. Normally, a child gradually detaches from them and learns to be independent. He/she 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, for example decide for their children if they feel cold and what clothes to wear and protect them from natural consequences*, then a child simply cannot develop an ability to choose and plan. They are not able to take responsibility for their actions. Such an attitude, of course, is often a manifestation of care, but it can hinder a child’s maturation.

Note* Natural consequences are experiences that help a grown-up to 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 an adult doing their homework for them at night because a child forgot, 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 be safe and befit the age.

Tyranny in upbringing

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

Pedagogic neglect

Carte blanche given to a child can also make them grow immature, however strange this may seem. Normally, children learn to be independent gradually, in line with their brains’ growth and maturing. That is why the 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 as they lack foresight etc. Infantility can be noticed first only during adolescence.

Self-doubt

A person who lacks 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 and lead a person becoming feeble and 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 a case, a person is deprived of the ability to do anything due to their fear or anxiety, or due to a lack of stamina. Please, pay attention to your health and make sure you notice the signs of such disorders.

These are 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 fully-fledged adult and an infantile? How can we find out whether or not a person has matured?

Signs of infantility

Children

Emotional, capricious, often whiny. Emotions are a means of communication and a tool for achieving goals

An adult has a clear understanding of their feelings and can properly display them, taking responsibility for each display of emotions.

They do not accept the blame for their own failure, for example, it’s the bench’s fault that they tripped over it

They can take responsibility for their own actions

Lie to get out of trouble

Ready to face consequences

Emphasize a person’s appearance or character, for example, by calling names

Emphasize a person’s actions and personal traits

Speak their mind freely, without filtering their thoughts. They do not think about consequences

Pay attention to what they say and consider the consequences of their utterances

Want to be in the center of attention and think that others should always care about their  needs

Understand that the world does not revolve around them

They have no concept of boundaries and easily break them, cannot handle refusal and gets hurt when others do not cater to their needs

They respect other people’s boundaries and recognize the right to refuse help, etc.

Barely learn from their mistakes, often perform the same faulty action over and over again

Can analyze the situation and draw conclusions

Cannot plan and think several moves ahead

Can set long-term goals and pursue them

Need to fall back on support from adults. Parents are seen as divine beings who bring happiness and well-being.

Support themselves and 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 The Maldives, but I can only dream about that.”

– Leonid, 32

“Mother always did her best to take care of us, and I tried to support myself by working odd jobs. I am already 21, I have finished my third year of university and 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 the appointment for 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 out like this, unable to be a proper adult, I cannot handle it. I cannot even sleep well or 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 the signs are the same for both men and women. However, there are certain notable features.

Infantility in men

  • This can be seen best in their 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. They may have been told, for example: “Don’t wash the dishes, that’s not for boys.” [1] As a result, grown-up men may expect others to clean after them, cook their 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 responsibilities, refusing to have a serious relationship or get married. Such a 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 and she can 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 the stereotype that the head of the family, responsible for making decisions is a man, while a woman is expected to be softer and more dependent. Some girls are even taught to shift the responsibility to others, first their father, then their husband. [1] As a result, a girl can only decide that she wants a new dress.
  • Also, many women who take on the burden of caring for 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 and to 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 the jewel of the home.”

– Elena, 29

The above examples were deliberately chosen to illustrate the issues, but infantility is often less obvious. For example, when a person earns money and supports themselves perfectly, yet still expects others to cater to their needs. He/she may think 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 to 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 my 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 necessary skills.

In order to act like an adult, we need to acquire the 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, the 7Spsy behavior modification technique will help you solve the problem in just 2-6 weeks. This method will aid 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 complete the test, our psychologists will offer you helpful behavior strategies and will support you in mastering them.

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 that you can control your behavior.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

Institute of Distance Psychology Pte .Ltd UEN 201834385M 4 Battery Road, #25-01 Bank of Chaina Building Singapore 049908.

LLC Tekhnologii Ideala, Center for Research Psychology 

TIN 5406976032 / PSRN 1175476058801

+7 (800) 550-99-36

+7 (658) -671-95-25

info_sg@7spsy.com