Infantilization is the prolonged treatment of one who has a mental capacity greater than that of a child as though they are a child. When used in reference to teenagers or adolescents, the term typically suggests that teenagers and their potential are underestimated in modern society, and/or that adolescents are often regarded as though they are younger than their actual age.
People who are the subject of infantilization by others are said to have been "infantilized." Studies have shown that an individual, when infantilized, is overwhelmingly likely to feel disrespected. Such individuals may report a sense of transgression akin to dehumanization.
There can be an overlap between the terms "infantilization" and "patronization", although infantilization derives more specifically from a sense of age group or hierarchical seniority on the part of those responsible for infantilization. The act of infantilizing others has been associated with narcissists.
Infantilization may also refer to a process when a child is being treated in a manner appropriate only for younger children.
- Maude, Ulrika (2011). Beckett and Phenomenology. p. 111.
'to infantilize someone', for instance by treating an adult person as if they were a child
- Couture, Pamela (2007). Child Poverty: Love, Justice, and Social Responsibility. p. 199.
- Ware, Mark (2013). Handbook of Demonstrations and Activities in the Teaching of Psychology volume 2. p. 281.
- Gresham, Mary (1976). "The infantilization of the elderly: A developing concept". Nursing Forum. 15 (2): 195–210. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6198.1976.tb00616.x. PMID 1049435.
In Maternal Overprotection, Levy (1957) defines infantilization as that process occurring in childhood whereby certain activities in caring for the child are continued beyond the stage of development when such activities usually occur.