Education Article: Adult Children Who Are Slow To Grow Up
We are all aware of adults who act like they are children or adolescents rather than like adults. There is a concept called "arrested emotional development" which documents the concept that individuals can have varying ages emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and developmentally. Our dress, behavior and interactions lend clues to what our various ages are. Terms such as, "young at heart", "mind of a child", "forever young" and "never grew up" refer to the phenomena of arrested emotional development.
People who have arrested emotional development can be fun to be with because they know how to party, have fun and not be influenced by the limitations that adults have to live within in the adult world. Substance abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse and trauma and abuse all are known to contribute to arrested emotional development. Being young forever seems to be an attractive alternative but, in actuality, the problems that accumulate from impulsive actions, poor decision making, not following through on promises and commitments and the general failure of the individual to individuate and become an adult are chronic and long standing. These individuals often require life long support by an adult in order to be able to function and to handle the various issues, stressors and problems that plague them throughout life.
What do you do when you have someone in your life who has arrested emotional development? Do you continue to cover for them and make excuses for them? Do you continue to spend every dime that you have keeping them out of trouble only to have the same problems occur over and over? Do you turn your head and lie awake at night wondering what will happen next?
There is a clinical term called "boundaries" that is critical in these types of situations. Boundaries refer to the limits that we place on others and on situations in which we take better care of ourselves than we do of the individuals who are creating problems for us. How does anyone grow up unless they have to take responsibility for their actions and lives?
If you are involved in one of these types of situations, call me at 281-444-2678 to arrange an appointment so that we can begin to address these issues that you are confronting that are overwhelming and painful to deal with.
John Garlock, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT, LCDC