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Tag Archives: Peter Pan Syndrome

Arrested Development : Are Adult BPD Sufferers Eternal 13-Year-Olds?

arrested development

Many people, such as, most famously, the now deceased Michael Jackson during his adulthood, want to be forever young. But be careful what you wish for : new research suggests that those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) may have ceased to develop emotionally at around the age of thirteen years due to the occurrence of severe trauma around this critical period in their psychological development.

In other words, they become emotionally developmentally arrested : puer aeternus (eternal children). Far from being a desirable state, it can make their adult lives all but impossible (click here to read my article about BPD to learn about its main symptoms).

And their consequent behaviour during adulthood, as a result of having BPD, is not like that of a well-balanced and well-adjusted thirteen- year-old, but that of a challenging and difficult one.

arrested development

So, according to this new research, those suffering from BPD can be regarded as being ‘stuck’ in the early adolescent phase of personality and emotional development. Because of this, their emotions remain labile, unstable and turbulent.

In particular, due to this arrested development of the personality, research suggests such individuals will :

– be hypersensitive to rejection

– have poor self-control (eg impulsivity/recklessness/diminished concern for the negative consequences of behaviour)

– have an excessive need for instant gratification

Therapies which may help individuals experiencing the kinds of psychological symptoms that I have referred to above may benefit, in particular, from two specific types of psychotherapy – these are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).


You can read my article about how cognitive behaviour therapy may be helpful, please click here.

Or, to read my article on dialectical behavioral therapy, please click here.

You may also be interested in reading my post on the so-called Peter Pan Syndrome by clicking here.

For more general information about CBT, click here

For more general information about DBT, click here




Hypnosis control emotionsCONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS : Advanced Self Hypnosis Audio MP3



BPD, arrested developmet

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. For more detail, click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc, PGDE(FAHE).


Childhood Trauma, BPD, Carl Jung and ‘The Peter Pan Syndrome.’


What Is Peter Pan Syndrome?

First, it should be stated that the so-called ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ is not an official psychiatric term and will not be found in the DSM (diagnostic statistical manual). However, many psychologists find it a useful concept and I include reference to it on this site as it shares many elements in common with borderline personality disorder, or BPD , and both conditions are linked to adverse childhood experiences.

The Jungian Concept Of ‘Puer Aeternus’

One of the Jungian personality archetypes (basic personality types that the psychologist Carl Jung described in his theories) was the PUER AETERNUS (Latin for ‘eternal boy’) and this idea is closely linked to the concept of the ‘Peter Pan Syndrome.’ However, the term ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ was first made popular when it was used in the title of a book on psychology by Dr Dan Kiley : ‘The Peter Pan Syndrome – Men Who Never Grow Up.’

The main features commonly described as being associated with individuals with the complex are as follows:

– avoidance of adult responsibilities as far as possible

– a preference for living in a fantasy world/in own head, rather than in reality

– possessing an attitude of ‘entitlement ‘(i.e. the belief that ‘the world owes them a living.’)

– tendency to lack any real direction in life

– tendency to put in the minimum of effort in order to get by

– prone to tantrums/tendency to employ negative behaviour to get attention/own way

– impulsive

– hedonistic/will tend to prioritize gaining pleasure and instant gratification over behaving responsibly and achieving long-term goals (a sort of ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’ attitude)

– tendency to live in the past/romanticize and idealize the past rather than look to the future

– tendency to have employment problems/difficulties in staying in jobs for long due to lack of responsibility/lack of long-term planning/resentment of having to actually work for a living etc

– tendency to seek pleasure irrespective  (up to a point) of moral considerations

– emotionally stunted/trapped in an adolescent mentality

– tendency to develop intense ‘crushes’ and to idealize potential romantic partners (click here to read my article on OBSESSIVE LOVE DISORDER)

– tendency to deal with problems by what has been termed ‘PRIMITIVE DENIAL’, a kind of ‘if I don’t think about it, the problem doesn’t exist’ attitude, and/or to blot out problems with drink and/or drugs (psychologists refer to this as ‘DISSOCIATION’).

– a tendency to perpetually blame others for own problems

– a strong need to ‘belong’

– high sensitivity to rejection

– high level of emotional vulnerability/lacks the necessary skills to protect own feelings – therefore easily hurt

– tends to have fragile self-esteem and is prone to react with rage when feels it is under threat


In later life, often around middle-age, such individuals may suddenly change when hit by the reality that it is not usually possible to just sail through life and have everything go your way. As a result, these individuals may suddenly feel overcome by a sense of guilt due to having wasted their talents, and, consequently, become DRIVEN TO ACHIEVE AS A FORM OF OVER-COMPENSATION FOR THEIR EARLIER LACK OF APPLICATION – this can , for some, lead to a dramatic kind of social/vocational ‘come-back,’ although, for others, it can, sadly, be too late.


Kiley, Dr. Dan (1983). The Peter Pan Syndrome : Men Who Never Grow Up. Avon Books. ISBN 978-0380688906



Above eBook, Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Borderline Personality Disorder now available on Amazon for immediate download.

(Other titles available)

Dr Kiley’s Book :

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).