Peter Pan syndrome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Peter Pan
Peter Pan character
Peter pan 1911 pipes.jpg
Illustration of Peter Pan playing the pipes, by F. D. Bedford from Peter and Wendy

Peter Pan syndrome is an inability to grow up or to engage in behaviour usually associated with adulthood. The term comes from the fictional children's character Peter Pan, who never ages.[1] While it is more commonly attributed to men, it can affect women as well.[2]

The concept gained popularity through Dr. Dan Kiley (psychoanalyst) in his book The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up first published in 1983. His book became an international best seller and led to a wave of copycat pop-psychology books. Dr. Kiley got the idea for "The Peter Pan Syndrome" after noticing that, like the famous character in the J. M. Barrie play, many of the troubled teenage boys he treated had problems growing up and accepting adult responsibilities. This trouble continued on into adulthood.

While transageism, or adults regarding themselves as juveniles or adolescents (also referred to as "juvenilism" and "adolescentilism", respectively[3]) is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a specific mental disorder,[4] the concept is falsely modelled on transgenderism. This transageist concept has garnered a great deal of controversy.[4] Neither transageism or Peter Pan Syndrome are recognized by the World Health Organization.[2][5] And though similarly presented, there are distinct differences between Peter Pan syndrome and puer aeternus.[6]

People who exhibit characteristics associated with the Peter Pan syndrome are sometimes referred to as Peter Panners.[7] Humbelina Robles Ortega, a professor of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment at Universidad de Granada, links the syndrome with overprotective parents and the lack of life skills which create anxiety in adulthood.[2]


An example of the Peter Pan syndrome is used in Aldous Huxley's 1962 novel Island, in which one of the characters talks about male "dangerous delinquents" and "power-loving troublemakers" who are "Peter Pans." These types of males were "boys who can't read, won't learn, don't get on with anyone, and finally turn to the more violent forms of delinquency." He uses Adolf Hitler as an archetype of this phenomenon:[8]

A Peter Pan if ever there was one. Hopeless at school. Incapable either of competing or co- operating. Envying all the normally successful boys—and, because he envied, hating them and, to make himself feel better, despising them as inferior beings. Then came the time for puberty. But Adolf was sexually backward. Other boys made advances to girls, and the girls responded. Adolf was too shy, too uncertain of his manhood. And all the time incapable of steady work, at home only in the compensatory Other World of his fancy. There, at the very least, he was Michelangelo. Here, unfortunately, he couldn't draw. His only gifts were hatred, low cunning, a set of indefatigable vocal cords and a talent for nonstop talking at the top of his voice from the depths of his Peter-Panic paranoia. Thirty or forty million deaths and heaven knows how many billions of dollars—that was the price the world had to pay for little Adolf's retarded maturation.

— Aldous Huxley, Island (Huxley novel)

A prominent example of a celebrity with Peter Pan syndrome was Michael Jackson,[9][10] who said, "I am Peter Pan in my heart."[11] Jackson named the 2,700-acre Los Olivos, California property, where he lived from 1988 to 2005, Neverland Ranch[12][13] after Neverland, the fantasy island on which Peter Pan lives. He said that it was his way of claiming a childhood he never had, having started early as a performing artist with his family.[9][10] He had built there numerous statues of children, a floral clock, a petting zoo, a movie theater, and a private amusement park containing cotton candy stands, two railroads, a Ferris wheel, carousel, Zipper, Octopus, Pirate Ship, Wave Swinger, Super Slide, roller coaster, go-karts, bumper cars, a tipi village, and an amusement arcade.[14][15] As The New York Daily News staff writer, Carrie Milago, reported on 26 June 2009: "On Jackson's dime, thousands of schoolchildren visited over the years, from local kids to sick youngsters from far away." Visitors "often recalled it as dreamlike", she observed.[16] A preschool teacher visiting the site told USA Today in 2003, Neverland "smells like cinnamon rolls, vanilla and candy and sounds like children laughing".[16]

A longitudinal study published in 2010 of Navajo adolescent mothers' intimate partner relationships identified reoccurring themes: limited support, substance abuse, infidelity, and domestic violence. One participant verbally equated all the men she had been involved with as having Peter Pan Syndrome, "...they don’t want to grow up. They drink too much, they don’t work, and they’re just not emotionally available.”[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dalla, Rochelle L.; Marchetti, Alexandria M.; Sechrest, Elizabeth A.; White, Jennifer L. (2010). ""All the Men Here Have the Peter Pan Syndrome- They Don't Want to Grow Up": Navajo Adolescent Mothers' Intimate Partner Relationships-A 15-Year Perspective". Violence Against Women. 16 (7): 743–763. doi:10.1177/1077801210374866. PMID 20558768.
  2. ^ a b c "Overprotecting parents can lead children to develop the so-called 'Peter Pan Syndrome'". Canal UGR (in Spanish). 2007-04-02. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  3. ^ Janssen, Diederik F. (2017). "John Money's Chronophilia: Untimely Sex between Philias and Phylisms". Sexual Offender Treatment. 12 (1).
  4. ^ a b Pilgrim, David (2018). "The transgender controversy: A reply to Summersell". Journal of Critical Realism. 17 (5): 523–528. doi:10.1080/14767430.2018.1539825.
  5. ^ "Health topics". Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  6. ^ Bélteczki, Zsuzsanna; Erdélyi, Agnes; Beszterci, Felícia (2011). "[Puer aeternus]". Psychiatria Hungarica: A Magyar Pszichiatriai Tarsasag Tudomanyos Folyoirata. 26 (2): 112–119. ISSN 0237-7896. PMID 21653996.
  7. ^ "Forever Young - Bicultural Urbanite Luke: Goethe-Institut Australien".
  8. ^ Huxley, Aldous (1962). Island (1st Perennial classics ed.). New York: Perennial. pp. 184–185. ISBN 0-06-008549-5.
  9. ^ a b Hiatt, Brian (30 July 2009). "Michael Jackson: What Went Wrong - Over the past 20 years, Michael Jackson went from being the biggest star in the world to a reclusive broken man. The inside story of his downfall". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  10. ^ a b Corliss, Richard (26 June 2009). "Michael Jackson: The Death of Peter Pan". Time. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  11. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (6 February 2003). "TELEVISION REVIEW; A Neverland World Of Michael Jackson". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  12. ^ "Neverland Never More", by William Etling (author of Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley),, 2009
  13. ^ Toumi, Habib (23 January 2006). "Jackson settles down to his new life in the Persian Gulf". Gulf News. Archived from the original on 12 February 2006. Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  14. ^ Soriano, Cesar G (2003-11-24). "At Neverland, they believe". USA Today.
  15. ^ "Vegas Hosting Big Jackson Family Auction". Fox News. Associated Press. 2007-05-29.
  16. ^ a b Melago, Carrie - Daily News Staff Writer (26 June 2009). "Michael Jackson's Neverland, his own 'Oz' and place to reclaim lost childhood". Archived from the original on 2012-10-27. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  17. ^ Dalla, Rochelle L.; Marchetti, Alexandria M.; Sechrest, Elizabeth Beth A.; White, Jennifer L. (July 2010). ""All the men here have the Peter Pan syndrome--they don't want to grow up": Navajo adolescent mothers' intimate partner relationships--a 15-year perspective". Violence Against Women. 16 (7): 743–763. doi:10.1177/1077801210374866. ISSN 1552-8448. PMID 20558768.