Peter Pan Syndrome (A Comprehensive Guide)


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Page last updated: 11/10/2022

Peter Pan Syndrome

We all used to love to listen to storybooks and most of those books have now turned up to become Disney movies.

Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, and many more have been our favorite characters and we loved them from childhood to adulthood.

We have also heard stories about those characters who have been extraordinarily small in stature.

Thos include dwarves, Tinker Bell, and a specific character named Peter Pan.

Oh! How we used to love to listen to stories of a guy who was smaller than all of his other siblings. J. M. Barrie wrote in his novel ‘Peter and Wendy’ in 1911 about Peter Pan as ‘all children, except one, grow up’.

You must be surprised to know that there is actually a syndrome associated with the name of Peter Pan which is known as Peter Pan syndrome.

It does not refer to the short stature of Peter Pan rather it is related to people not acting like grown-up people and clinging to their carefree days of youth.

They tend to avoid social, emotional, and financial responsibilities by reverting to Peter Pan syndrome.

We are going to learn more about Peter Pan syndrome in this article.

Before learning about further details, we need to know what Peter Pan syndrome actually is.

Background of Peter Pan Syndrome

The current name of this syndrome is due to the pattern of behavior which first appears in Dr. Dan Kiley’s book, ‘Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up’.

The books came out in 1982 and made this term famous.

This book was actually focused only on men behaving childish but Peter Pan syndrome can affect anyone without the exception of gender or culture.

It is not considered as a mental health problem yet but some experts still believe that his kind of behavior can have disruptive effects on a person’s relationships or his overall quality of life.  

What Peter Pan Syndrome Actually is

Have you heard someone actually say that they can’t be adults today?

Well people who have Peter Pan syndrome actually live by this philosophy every single day.

They do not feel like performing any of the adult duties any day.

There have not been many official symptoms determined because Peter Pan syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis.

However, there are a few signs which have been determined by a few studies which show how Peter Pan syndrome actually plays out in a person’s attitude towards his responsibility and accountability.

There are a few work-related signs of this syndrome too.

Just like Peter pan Syndrome, there is another unique mental illness called the Maladaptive Daydreaming. Both of these are quite different to each other, but the similarity is that none is a part of the DSM-V.

Peter Pan Syndrome (A Comprehensive Guide)

Behavioral Indicators of Peter Pan Syndrome 

People suffering from syndrome sometimes feel helpless and they give a general impression of ‘they can’t get it all together’.

You might notice some of the signs given below.

  • They expect others to take care of them.
  • They have a pattern of flaking out and unreliability. 
  • They often have a history of substance use mostly because they want to escape difficult feelings or responsibilities.
  • They mostly throw emotional outbursts when dealing with stressful situations.
  • They often fear negative evaluation.
  • They don’t often make a solid plan and want to keep their options open.
  • They don’t have much interest in their personal growth.
  • They are most likely to make excuses and blame others when things go wrong.

These signs are not clear cut indications of Peter Pan syndrome as they can be related to any other problem but if a person has most of these signs then he is most likely to have Peter Pan syndrome. 

Since the people with Peter Pan syndrome avoid responsibilities and they are most likely to escape from their duties, they can often see indicators on the workplace which are related to being a sufferer of Peter Pan syndrome.

They most likely tend to struggle with the job and their career goals. Here are some of the work-related indicators of Peter Pan syndrome.

  • They tend to leave their jobs easily and often only because they don’t feel challenged or stressed or simply because they feel bored.
  • They keep losing their job and develop of losing their job because of sheer lack of effort or tardiness or skipping their work.
  • They keep on moving in different fields of work without developing any skills in any specific area.
  • They would like to adopt work which is a part-time job and they don’t have any interest in pursuing promotion opportunities.
  • They don’t do much effort to find a job.
  • They sometimes have unrealistic goals.

It is not always necessary for them to have unrealistic goals but they sometimes dream of becoming a pro athlete or landing a record deal.

They are normal and achievable goals and there is nothing wrong with developing these goals and if you want to pursue them in healthy ways.

However, if these ambitions of yours are hindrances in other areas of life then you should consider goals that are more realistic career options.

Daydreaming about these goals without making any real effort will not help you achieve anything and it is also an indicator of Peter Pan syndrome. 

People who suffer from Peter Pan syndrome mostly have a hard time making it in the world alone.

They show problems in the divergent levels of ambition, life goals, their ability to make commitments, and their expectations of life.

They don’t care if the dishes are piling up in the sink and they tend to avoid doing their laundry till they are out of clean clothes.

If you have a partner with Peter Pan syndrome you find yourself helping them out in most of the chores so their house can look like a house and a livable place.

They may also show the signs given below.

  • They have trouble managing their finances and do not spend money with caution and then face trouble for doing so.
  • They tend to neglect responsibilities related to childcare and household chores.
  • They let you plan different activities and let you make big decisions.
  • They are mostly emotionally unavailable and they show signs like they don’t want to define or label their relationships.
  • They tend to avoid relationship problems in productive ways.
  • They avoid making long term plans because they want to live for today and rather not think about the future.

These are not only signs of Peter Pan syndrome in a relationship as there can be many others but these are the most commonly found signs.

Causes of Peter Pan Syndrome

As there have not been many studies related to Peter Pan syndrome, there have not been many causes that are known to be authentic reasons for this syndrome.

Even with these proposed reasons, there is no single cause of Peter Pan syndrome and could be the result of many complex factors given below.

Childhood Issues

Our childhood is of utmost importance in our lives because our personality develops during our childhood and if children are not treated well, they can become problematic adults during their adulthood.

There are some parenting styles that can result in a person with no adult level life skills and who still try to avoid responsibilities and commitments and who is more focused on pleasure-seeking, self-satisfaction, and escapism.

Permissive parenting and overly protective parenting both can result in Peter Pan syndrome. 

Protective Parents

Protective parents would do almost everything for you and consequently make you feel the responsibilities frightening and the adult world is full of difficulties.

They are so focused on making you enjoy a childhood that they don’t teach you skills like budgeting or housecleaning or simple skills around the house and also relationship maintenance behaviors.

If parents are unable to teach you these things, you will find yourself steering around these concepts thorough out your life.

Permissive Parenting

On the other hand, permissive parents do not set any boundaries for their children’s behavior and they grow up believing that they can do whatever they want.

If you have made mistakes in your childhood but your parents took care of any problem arisen from that and protected you of any blame then you will never ever learn these actions can have certain consequences.

If your parents did not make you take care of your financial needs even in your early adulthood or never asked you to work for the things you wanted you might not be able to understand why you have to work.

Financial Issues

A person who is facing economic problems and stagnation can also face Peter Pan syndrome especially when in young adults.

These people find adulting harder than it used to be because now career-making takes even more motivation and effort than it did in the past.

The changes in the world’s economy can make it the transition from adolescence to adulthood really hard.

People already have low motivation and with fewer job opportunities and minimum wages, financial issues have become more than ever.

These issues can become problematic and people can take refuge in developing Peter Pan Syndrome.

Lack of Adult Skills

Adulting is a term that you might have heard before and it is used to describe adult trials and basic adult skills.

These skills can be as little as making your own doctor’s appointment or doing your taxes or even paying your bills.

Many schools don’t teach their children how to do all of these adult skills.

Students won’t know to apply for a mortgage but they know mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.

This can cause much stress making a person develop Peter Pan syndrome.

A different kind of syndrome, called the Imposter Syndrome was experienced by Sir Albert Einstein. It is not like Peter pan syndrome, but totally different from it.

FAQ about Peter Pan Syndrome

Does Narcissism have anything to do with Peter Pan syndrome?

Narcissism has also gathered a lot of attention as to have something to do with Peter Pan syndrome but they are two different concepts.

People with Peter Pan syndrome can have narcissistic tendencies but so can anybody.

However, some people only have narcissistic traits and do not meet the full-fledge criteria of narcissistic personality disorder.

Even though they share some traits, not everyone who suffers from Peter Pan syndrome has narcissistic traits.

Does Peter Pan syndrome only occur in males?

Peter Pan syndrome is largely associated with males and it has been from the beginning but there is a lack of research evidence in this area.

Peter Pan syndrome is mostly linked with males but anyone can suffer from it.

Do women suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome?

At first, the research was only focused on males but there was another counterpart syndrome diagnosed in females as well which was known as Wendy syndrome and these females do everything for Peter Pans in their lives like making decisions for them and clearing up their messes. 


Raypole, C. (March, 2020). Peter pan syndrome: when people just can’t grow up. 

Nemko, M. (May, 2016). The Peter Pan Syndrome. Kirby, S. (March, 2020). Peter Pan Syndrome: The Science Behind It, What It Is & How To Treat It.