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Infantilization is the prolonged treatment of one who has a mental capacity greater than that of a child as though he or she is a child.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[citation needed] The act of infantilizing others has been associated with narcissists.[4]

Infantilization may also refer to a process when a child is being treated in a manner appropriate only for younger children.[5]

Land Takings in China[edit]

Infantilization is a behavior or process that restricts an individual or group’s autonomy based on the failure to recognize and respect their full capacity to reason. It is considered a deviation from societal norms and involves a diminishment of dignity in those affected.[6] Infantilization can be imposed by state or private actors, and can be coupled with other actions to further minimize an individual or group’s autonomy in a way that minimizes their status in society. A possible remedy for infantilization is allowing dispossessed populations to heavily contribute in deciding which remedy they would receive.[7]

In the context of land takings in China, Chinese citizens are routinely infantilized and dehumanized because the state believes that they are “low quality”, unruly, confused individuals who need to be forcibly educated for their own good in what the state euphemistically calls study classes. In China, private ownership of urban buildings has been allowed since the reforms of the 1980s, but ownership of the underlying land is not allowed. Since urban owners can buy and sell their buildings, but rural owners cannot, rural properties are extremely vulnerable to expropriation in China’s because the burgeoning urban real estate market is encroaching upon it. But, unlike eminent domain procedures in liberal democracies, rural people in China have nominal legal and political channels by which they can resist the expropriation. This infantilization minimizes the avenues by which rural landowners can resist the bureaucratic taking of their land.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maude, Ulrika (2011). Beckett and Phenomenology. p. 111. 'to infantilize someone', for instance by treating an adult person as if they were a child
  2. ^ Couture, Pamela (2007). Child Poverty: Love, Justice, and Social Responsibility. p. 199.
  3. ^ Ware, Mark (2013). Handbook of Demonstrations and Activities in the Teaching of Psychology volume 2. p. 281.
  4. ^
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Atuahene, Bernadette (2016-10-01). "Takings as a Sociolegal Concept: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Involuntary Property Loss". Rochester, NY.
  7. ^ Atuahene, Bernadette (2016). "Dignity Takings and Dignity Restoration: Creating a New Theoretical Framework for Understanding Involuntary Property Loss and the Remedies Required". Law & Social Inquiry. 41 (4): 796–823. doi:10.1111/lsi.12249. ISSN 0897-6546.
  8. ^ Pils, Eva (2016). "Resisting Dignity Takings in China". Law & Social Inquiry. 41 (4): 888–916. doi:10.1111/lsi.12203. ISSN 0897-6546.