Peter Pan syndrome

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Peter Pan syndrome
Peter pan 1911 pipes.jpg
Illustration of Peter Pan playing the pipes, by F. D. Bedford from Peter and Wendy

Peter Pan syndrome describes one's inability to believe that they are of an older age or to engage in behaviour usually associated with adulthood. This syndrome affects people who do not want or feel unable to grow up, people with the body of an adult but the mind of a child. They do not know how to or do not want to stop being children.[1] The term comes from the fictional children's character Peter Pan, who never ages.[2] While it is more commonly attributed to men, it can affect women as well.[3]

Some characteristics of the disorder are the inability of individuals to take on responsibilities, to commit themselves or to keep promises, excessive care about the way they look and personal well-being and their lack of self-confidence, even though they do not seem to show it and actually come across as exactly the opposite. Also they are constantly changing partners and looking for younger ones. “Whenever the relationship starts to ask for a high level of commitment and responsibility, they become afraid and break it up. Relationships with younger women have the advantage of being able to live by the day without any worries, and they also involve less future plans, therefore less responsibilities.” [4]

People who exhibit these characteristics associated with the Peter Pan syndrome are sometimes referred to as Peter Panners.[5] 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.[3]

Though similarly presented, there are distinct differences between Peter Pan syndrome and puer aeternus.[6]

The concept of adults regarding themselves as juveniles or adolescents is known as transageism (also referred to as juvenilism and adolescentilism, respectively),[7] which is modelled on transgenderism. Transageism—which has garnered a great deal of controversy[8]—is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, nor is it recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a specific mental disorder.[8] Likewise, neither transageism nor Peter Pan Syndrome are recognized by the World Health Organization.[3][9]


The concept gained popularity through psychoanalyst Dr. Dan Kiley 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.[10]

Island (1962)[edit]

Prior to Kiley coining the term in his 1983 book, Peter Pan syndrome is evident 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:[11]

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 (1962)

Real-world examples[edit]

A prominent example of a celebrity with Peter Pan syndrome is alleged to be Michael Jackson,[12][13] who said, "I am Peter Pan in my heart."[14] Jackson named the 1,100-hectare (2,700-acre) Los Olivos, California property, where he lived from 1988 to 2005, Neverland Ranch[15][16] 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.[12][13] 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.[17][18]

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.[19] A preschool teacher visiting the site told USA Today in 2003, Neverland "smells like cinnamon rolls, vanilla and candy and sounds like children laughing."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Overprotecting parents can lead children to develop the so-called 'Peter Pan Syndrome'". Canal UGR (in Spanish). 2007-04-02. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  2. ^ 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 (7): 743–763. doi:10.1177/1077801210374866. PMID 20558768. S2CID 2402474.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Overprotecting parents can lead children to develop the so-called 'Peter Pan Syndrome'". Canal UGR (in Spanish). 2007-04-02. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  5. ^ "Forever Young - Bicultural Urbanite Luke: Goethe-Institut Australien".
  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. ^ Janssen, Diederik F. (2017). "John Money's Chronophilia: Untimely Sex between Philias and Phylisms". Sexual Offender Treatment. 12 (1).
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Health topics". Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  10. ^ Bonny Caballero, Maria (February 2016). "¿Puede afectar el Síndrome de Peter Pan a la alimentación?" (PDF).
  11. ^ Huxley, Aldous (1962). Island (1st Perennial classics ed.). New York: Perennial. pp. 184–185. ISBN 0-06-008549-5.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ a b Corliss, Richard (26 June 2009). "Michael Jackson: The Death of Peter Pan". Time. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  14. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (6 February 2003). "TELEVISION REVIEW; A Neverland World Of Michael Jackson". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  15. ^ "Neverland Never More", by William Etling (author of Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley),, 2009
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Soriano, Cesar G (2003-11-24). "At Neverland, they believe". USA Today.
  18. ^ "Vegas Hosting Big Jackson Family Auction". Fox News. Associated Press. 2007-05-29.
  19. ^ 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.