It can also have other meanings, such as a parent who enjoys being a parent due to spending quality time with his or her children, but is reluctant to lay down the law or handle the more serious aspects of parenthood. An example is Robin Williams' character in Mrs. Doubtfire, a father who has fun with his children but is a poor disciplinarian and is seen by his wife as an irresponsible head of the household.
In the past, psychology recognized the concept of puer aeternus, or "eternal boy", a person remaining emotionally at the adolescent level. In pop-culture it got the name the Peter Pan syndrome, after the archetypal "eternal boy", Peter Pan.
However recently it is a growing recognition that for an adult to have interests traditionally expected only from children is not necessary an anomaly. The entertainment industry was quick to recognized the trend, and introduced a special category, "kidult" of things marketable for kids and adults alike. Enormous successes of films like Shrek and Harry Potter, of books traditionally targeted for teenagers and the fact that Disneyland is among world top adult (without kids) vacation destinations seem to indicate that "kidulthood" is a rather mainstream phenomenon. And unlike puer aeternus, "rejuveniles" successfully marry adult responsibilities with non-adult interests. When Christopher Noxon appeared on The Colbert Report on June 29, 2006, he remarked that "There's a big difference between childish and childlike".
Karen Brooks explores a contribution to this phenomenon of what she calls the phenomenon of the "commodification of youth": entertainers sell "the teen spirit" to adults who in the past were called "young at heart".
The term was first used by Jim Ward-Nichols on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ in its campus humor magazine, Ducklips (1982). It first appeared in the mainstream media (The New York Times) on August 11, 1985 in an article by Peter Martin.
- "Kidult", Oxford Dictionaries
- Christopher Noxon, Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up, 2006, (online book preview)
- "Adultescent", Oxford Dictionaries
- "Forty-Year-Old Virgins", by Tony Dokoupil, December 15, 2007
- Quote: "So what's driving this rejuvenile movement? Marketing, mostly."
- "Are you a Kidult?", The Guardian
- "The grown-up world of kidult books", The Telegraph, 11 January 2003
- Karen Brooks, "Nothing Sells Like Teen Spirit: the Commodification of Youth Culture" in: Youth Cultures: Texts, Images, and Identities, 2003, ISBN 027597409X, pp. 1-16