Written by: Chloë Willekens, Elona de Maesschalk, Jean-marie Mahi, Emiel Van Den daele, Andraz Corn en Fien Van der Heyden
In today’s world, being young is a global lifestyle choice. We live in a postmodern society in which infantile behaviour had become an aspirational model to follow. An ideal of being carefree, having fun and being uncommitted. Individuals try to return to their safer, childlike worlds to relieve themselves from the pressure of stress and anxiety in this modern world. According Crawford, people try more and more to escape their pragmatic boring, daily lives. In fact, as reported by Bernardini the postmodern adult is by now characterized by an unprecedented infantilistic nature. He chases the aesthetics and lifestyles of young people, lives in a state of continuous present, postpones or eludes those stages that used to mark the social recognition of maturity as well as the responsibilities and the preclusions involved.
A new social figure has emerged: the infantile adult or, as recently named in the American scientific production, the kidult. But what is a kidult and why opt for a regression toward youth or even infantile ages?
According Crawford the kidult is a figure of the twenty-first century; an adult ‘child’ who acclaims certain youth values while denying his or her real age, showing no motivation whatsoever in building archetype
al adult markers such as independence, work stability, and a family to settle down with.
The concept is useful to describe an increasingly recurrent reality: husbands in their forties who spend hours playing the same video games that obsess adolescents, fathers verbally and physically involved in fist fights at their children’s game, politicians and managers who behave like impulsive teenagers. Young adults who live with their parents, watch cartoons and see in marriage and in parenting an obstacle to their independence. But also fifty-year-old women who wear clothing as if they were in their twenties.
Below a few reasons why people choose to live and behave like a younger person:
- Some people are scared to grow up. They miss their life as a child and teenager. By acting childish their nostalgic feelings come to the surface.
- In todays, in a culture of chaos and uncertainty, a person is more likely to relive memories of stability and past experiences.
- Lastly, the young lifestyle is extremely universal. Thus, from a purely economic point of view, the young – both actual and presumed, or physically and mentally – represent the most interesting target group profit wise since they allow the sale of substantially identical products in essentially different realities. The child, in other words, has acquired a new marketing value as the prototypic figure of consumption.
Peter pan syndrome
‘Once you’re grown up, you can’t come back.’ – Peter Pan
Research has shown that mainly men adopt the kidult lifestyle, in this case we call it the Peter Pan syndrome or in Dutch: ‘Het Pietje Bell complex’.
It was Peter who showed us what it would be like to stay young forever. Peter Pan symbolizes the youth, the joy. He sailed all possible ways to get out of it, becoming mature. Unlike Peter, our children cannot flee the adult world. They do not want to see reality, behave inappropriately and evade adult responsibilities. They prefer to stay what they once where: little boys.
The symptoms of this syndrome begin to develop between twelve and seventeen years old. You can only speak of the Peter Pan complex if the problem influence daily activities. And if they also stand in the way of entering relationships.
Five symptoms to recognize someone with the Peter Pan syndrome:
- Socially awkward
These men have a hard time making friends and other social contacts. This is mainly because they have a hard time expressing their feelings.
- Loose lifestyle
They behave very cheerful and carefree, but the reality shows something else. Since these men regard relaxation as a right, they do not consider it is important to work and assume few responsibilities. It is also very notable that they always but the blame on someone or something else. They often act without thinking about the consequences.
- Attached to their mother
In most cases these people still live at home with their parents. They are often very attached to their mother and are as well very spoiled. Because kidults cannot handle money well, they will also be financially dependent. They manipulate their mother and make them feel very sorry. Also, it is very remarkable that they alienate from their father.
They are usually not married. These men go out with women who are much younger or behave immature. Friends are much more important than a family. it is noticeable that these men have an enormous fear of being rejected, which is why they often adopt a heartless attitude. To prove how potent he is, he goes to bed with every willing girl.
They have no fixed purpose in their life because they only want to think about it the next day. They postpone matters for as long as possible until they feel forced to act.
Our own research
To further investigate the kidult phenomenon, we conducted a short survey of 106 people, who voluntarily worked to complete it. The questions are based on observable and non-observable characteristics of a kidult. We have also been inspired by previous scientific surveys on this topic.
The average age of the participants was between 19-25 years old. The youngest participant was 17 years old, the oldest 68. There were 74.5 percent female participants and the other 24.5 percent where men.
The results of this survey can be found in the Powerpoint presentation.
Bernardini, J. (2014). The Indicators of Adulthood in the Postmodern Context . Editura Lumen.
Venken, A. V. (2017-2018). PERSONALITY TRAITS AS DETERMINANTS OF KIDULT MEDIA PURCHASE INTENTIONS AND LIKABILITY. Gent: universiteit Gent.
Killey, D. (1985). Het Pietje Bell Complex. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff B.V.