Helping Adolescents to grow

It’s not easy being an adult, is it?

And for most of us, it hasn’t been an easy road to get here!

Recently, I was chatting with four of our thirteen grandchildren who are presently going through adolescence.

When I asked them how they were going, they all commented on how things are getting ‘more complicated & harder in life’.

When I investigated what this meant for them individually.

It was in the areas of changing friendships with peers, school work & those confusing adolescent love interests.

We can all empathize with them, can’t we?

For we all went through those tumultuous & confusing teenage years!

And who would want to go back?

I can hear a collective groan at the above suggestion, for they were not easy years…Were they?

But for some the lack of adult responsibilities in adolescence was the best part.

Unfortunately, there are those who haven’t left adolescence in what’s called the Peter Pan Complex.

Across western society we are witnessing a rise in this phenomenon & it’s not a positive one!

This is our topic for today, so let’s grab our cuppa’s & get comfy.

What is the Peter Pan Complex?

Well to simply define it, it’s adults who haven’t left adolescence & don’t necessarily want to, it’s being the forever adolescent. 

At first it was related to men who left their responsibilities to others, you may have heard of the ‘man child’ or the ‘forever boy’.

This term was first given by psychologist Dan Kiley in his book, The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up.

And who is Peter Pan?

He is J.M. Barrie’s famed 1911 character of his story “Peter Pan and Wendy,” a tale of an ageless boy shirking all responsibility in favour of adventures with his friends who were the ‘Lost Boys, in a paradise called Neverland’.

Please note; this Complex is not a medical, congenital or physical condition.

It is a complex set of behaviours.

And I’m not talking about a bit of fun here with friends. I’m talking about serious long term irresponsible behaviours that impact the lives of all those around these Forever boys including their own.

people taking a photo

Signs of the Peter Pan Complex 

Signs of this complex can be mild to severe.

These behaviours tend to be persistent over time, instead of sporadic episodes.

And these behaviours significantly interfere with relationships, socialising, education & work.

They may include:


  • spontaneous or impulsive behaviour
  • blaming others for their irresponsible behaviour
  • emotional outbursts
  • employment challenges
  • difficulty in managing finances
  • procrastination
  • spending time with similar peers
  •  fear of commitment

While the Peter Pan Complex isn’t considered a personality disorder, researchers have noted that there are some overlapping traits with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Do women also demonstrate this Complex?

Rarely, but yes it does happen.

An example may be seen in women who want to forever party & not take their adult responsibilities seriously.

But mainly what is seen in the relationships of the men with a Peter Pan Complex are the women who are known as the Wendy’s who continually enable the irresponsible behaviour in these men.

The term Wendy comes from the other main character in the story of Peter Pan 

Wendy falls in love with Peter’s exciting adventurous ways & for awhile she joins him in their great adventures together.

They then decide to get married & soon children arrive, at first he tries to be responsible but quickly falls back into going missing on adventures with his ‘lost boys’ (mates).

Wendy is left to take on the responsibilities that Peter shirks; raising the children, working to pay the bills etc.

Until one day she’s had enough & confronts him with his irresponsible ways.

This often doesn’t go well…

Sound familiar?

Sadly, we are seeing this all too often not only in western society but also in the wider Christian community!

So, what can be done about this?

First, those who are the enablers of these men need to STOP enabling!

These may not be only the Wendy’s of the Peters but also can be his parents, siblings or most often then not his mates (the lost boys) who enable, tolerate & excuse or even encourage such behaviour.

You are not doing these men a service by enabling their behaviour!

Men need to be responsible men, not adolescents.

Conversely, women need to be responsible women not forever party girls.

Children need parents to step up & be responsible, loving & present in their lives.

It is just as unhealthy to enable such behaviour as it is to continue in adolescent behaviour as an adult.

It is emotionally crippling!

Next, both the Peters & Wendys need to seek  professional help.

There’s a reason why the Peters are choosing this behaviour & why Wendys are enabling it, both need to get to the root cause. Individually processing it with a professional.

As the following scripture reminds us;

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;

when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

1 Corinthians 13: 11 Refer II 

Until next time,


You’re most welcome to join me in The Reading Room


In Prayer

© 2022 Jennifer M. Ross, All Rights Reserved. Photo by Cori Rodriguez on 

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12 thoughts on “Helping Adolescents to grow

Add yours

  1. Don’t you just cherish those deeper conversations with our young adult grandkids? Being at a distance, they don’t happen anywhere near enough for me. And I guess that makes me appreciate those quiet times, those insightful times, all the more.

    Bless your weekend, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Jennifer. I agree. There has been an increase in the Peter Pan Complex, particularly in western culture. I hadn’t realized it has some overlapping traits with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Though, that does make sense. As a mom raising/launching young men, I do NOT want them to fall into this behavior pattern.

    Liked by 1 person

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