Peter Pan syndrome
|Coined by||Dan Kiley|
Peter Pan syndrome is a metaphor, based on the concept of not growing up, and being trapped in childhood. It is not a recognized mental health illness. The phrase has also been used to describe companies who avoid productivity-enhancing technologies and remain small.
It is a pop-psychology term used to describe an adult who is socially immature. The term has been used informally by both laypeople and some psychology professionals in popular psychology since the 1983 publication of The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up, by Dr. Dan Kiley. Kiley also wrote a companion book, The Wendy Dilemma, published in 1984.
Peter Pan Syndrome is not recognized by the World Health Organization. It is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
People who exhibit characteristics popularly associated with the Peter Pan syndrome have sometimes been referred to as Peter Panners. This term and concept is not accepted in the DSM-5 and is used disparagingly. Distinctions have been made with puer aeternus, a psychological concept advanced by Carl Jung.
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. Dr. Kiley later admitted that he had been a Peter Pan himself.
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:
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)
A prominent example of a celebrity with Peter Pan syndrome is alleged to be Michael Jackson, who said, "I am Peter Pan in my heart." Jackson named the 1,100-hectare (2,700-acre) Los Olivos, California property, where he lived from 1988 to 2005, Neverland Ranch 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. 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.
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. A preschool teacher visiting the site told USA Today in 2003, Neverland "smells like cinnamon rolls, vanilla and candy and sounds like children laughing."
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- Kalkan, Melek; Batık, Meryem Vural; Kaya, Leyla; Turan, Merve (1 June 2021). "Peter Pan Syndrome "Men Who Don't Grow": Developing a Scale". Men and Masculinities. 24 (2): 245–257. doi:10.1177/1097184X19874854. ISSN 1097-184X.
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