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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Peter Pan Syndrome: When one ‘never grows up’ or takes responsibility

It is said that people who develop similar behaviours — of living life carefree, finding responsibilities challenging in adulthood, and basically, "never growing up" — suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 24, 2021 7:07:56 am
Peter Pan is a fictional character created by Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie in the early 1900s

A special court in Mumbai has granted bail to a 23-year-old accused of sexually assaulting a minor. The court found the two were romantically involved, and that the 14-year-old had voluntarily been with the accused.

During the hearing, the accused had told the court he suffered from “Peter Pan Syndrome”, prompting the special public prosecutor to argue that a medical examination of the man showed no signs of abnormality, and that the defence itself could not provide medical papers to support the claim.

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But, what is Peter Pan Syndrome?

Peter Pan is a fictional character created by Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie in the early 1900s. His character is one of a care-free young boy, who never grows up. He features in several of Barrie’s books and plays, and has since been adapted in numerous films, television series and comics. These works describe stories of Peter and his friend Wendy travelling to Neverland, a mythical island, where they meet fairies, pirates and mermaids, amongst other creatures.

It is said that people who develop similar behaviours — of living life carefree, finding responsibilities challenging in adulthood, and basically, “never growing up” — suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome.

While the World Health Organization does not recognise Peter Pan Syndrome as a health disorder, many experts believe it is a mental health condition that can affect one’s quality of life.

The term ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ first appeared in 1983, in a book authored by Dr Dan Kiley titled ‘Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up’. He described it as a “social-psychological phenomenon”.

What are the symptoms of Peter Pan Syndrome?

As Peter Pan Syndrome hasn’t officially been diagnosed as a health disorder, there aren’t clearly-defined symptoms or characteristics or even reasons which cause it. However, according to HealthLine, it could affect one’s daily routine, relationships, work ethic, and result in attitudinal changes.

According to the University of Granada, “The ‘Peter Pan 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 don’t know how to or don’t want to stop being children and start being mothers or fathers. The syndrome is not currently considered a psychopathology. However, an increasingly larger number of adults are presenting emotionally immature behaviors in Western society.”

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Peter Pan Syndrome can affect anyone, irrespective of gender, race or culture. However, it appears to be more common among men.

In the Mumbai case, the lawyer of the accused said Peter Pan Syndrome affected people “who do not want or feel unable to grow up, where a person’s mental age is more than his/her physical age”.

Like Peter Pan Syndrome, a Wendy Syndrome

Wendy Syndrome takes after Wendy Darling, who appears beside Peter Pan but is seen as playing an antithetical character. She is often called a “mother”, taking on the role of an adult or someone more mature.

Healthline describes people suffering from Wendy Syndrome as often seen “making decisions, tidying up messes, and offering one-sided emotional support”.

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