The 4 Types Of Emotionally Immature

Definition of Emotionally Immature, Signs, Three Elements of Mental Health Rehab & Importance

What is Emotional Immaturity?

Maturity means that a person, animal, or plant has reached their final growth stage. Someone who hasn’t reached that stage is immature. That’s easy to understand when it comes to physical development, but what does it mean to be emotionally immature and its connection to mental health disorders?


The American Psychological Association defines emotional maturity as “a high and appropriate level of emotional control and expression.” On the other hand, emotional immaturity is “a tendency to express emotions without restraint or disproportionately to the situation.” In other words, dynamic behavior that is out of control or not appropriate to the situation can be considered immature. It’s more like the emotional reactions you might expect to see from a child than from an adult.

Signs of Emotional Immaturity

Emotionally immature people don’t meet society’s expectations for social behavior within their age range. It’s safe to assume that a grown-up will be able to consider their impact on others and pay attention to their feelings. Emotionally mature people can accept criticism and learn from it. Adults with emotional maturity can think about and plan for the future. People with emotional immaturity, however, struggle with these things. Emotionally immature people lack specific emotional and social skills and have trouble relating to other adults. Some behaviors can be a signal that you’re dealing with an emotionally immature person:

Emotionally immature people lack certain emotional and social skills and have trouble relating to other adults.
Emotionally immature people lack certain emotional and social skills and have trouble relating to other adults.
  • Impulsive behavior. Children are often impulsive. They speak out of turn or touch things that they shouldn’t feel. They say things without thinking about how they’ll affect other people. Over time, people learn not to do those things. Unfortunately, emotionally immature adults haven’t learned to curb their impulses. They act in unpredictable or antisocial ways.
  • Demanding attention. Young children get bored when people ignore them. So they’ll do things to draw the focus back to themselves, even if that means acting out in negative ways. Emotionally immature adults often do the same. They might not act out negatively, but they may inject themselves into conversations or crack inappropriate jokes to get everyone’s attention.
  • Name-calling and bullying. In general, adults don’t resort to schoolyard tactics when they relate to other adults. You seldom see two adults calling each other mean names. Someone who behaves like a mean kid in school is not using mature emotional tactics. Instead, they are relying on childlike displays of temper.
  • Avoidance. Emotionally immature people may not have a good sense of the future or plan for it. Refusing to take on significant responsibilities like committed relationships, careers, or investments like homeownership are signs of avoiding responsibility. People like this might let others take care of their way beyond the point that they should be self-sufficient. This is sometimes called Peter Pan syndrome, after the fictional character who never wanted to grow up.
  • Narcissism. An essential facet of maturity is thinking about other people’s needs and feelings. Unfortunately, immature people only appear to care about themselves. They dislike compromise and don’t want to consider other people’s ideas. They always want to have their way.
Someone emotionally immature will find it hard to effectively communicate or process their emotions and can often appear selfish or aloof.
Someone emotionally immature will find it hard to effectively communicate or process their emotions and can often appear selfish or aloof.

How to Prevent Emotional Immaturity From Affecting Your Mental Health

If you’re trying to navigate a relationship with an emotionally immature person, there are a few things you can do to ease the situation. When you work to resolve the problem, you can prevent a negative impact on your mental health and relieve stress.

  • Communicate: Talking honestly but sensitively about their behavior is one way to start. You can point out how their words or actions made you feel and ask them to be more sensitive in the future. You may need to repeat that conversation more than once. It takes time to learn new emotional patterns.
  • Be positive: When the person behaves in ways that seem mature and genuine, praise them for it. Positive reinforcement is a vital tool for encouraging growth. Parents often do this to promote certain behaviors in young children. Adults will respond positively to praise as well.
  • Adjust: You can also try to adjust your expectations, within reason, of course. Not everyone will change, but you can change how you respond to people. You can learn their patterns and find ways to work around the problem behaviors.

What are Emotionally Immature Parents?

If you grew up with an emotionally immature parent, you may have observed any of the following traits from your parent(s):

  • They are rigid and single-minded and can become very defensive when people have other ideas
  • They have low-stress tolerance and have trouble admitting mistakes, discounting the facts, and blaming others instead
  • They do what feels best, often following the path of least resistance
  • They have little respect for other people’s differing thoughts and opinions
  • They are self-preoccupied and egocentric
  • They have low empathy and are emotionally insensitive
  • They fear feelings and might have taught their children that certain feelings are shameful or “bad”
  • They place focus on the physical instead of emotional needs of their children
  • They can be killjoys, responding to their children’s ideas or enthusiasm in a dismissive or skeptical way
  • They have intense but shallow emotions, and typically quick to react

As an adult because of the trauma caused by emotionally immature parents, you may now experience:

  • Lingering feelings of anger, loneliness, betrayal, or abandonment
  • Feeling guilty for being unhappy
  • Feeling highly sensitive and perceptive to other people
  • Difficulty trusting your own instincts
  • Lacking self-confidence
  • Feeling trapped in taking care of your parent(s)

People with emotionally immature parents often feel emotionally lonely around their parents, even when they’re together. While there is typically a huge emphasis on the physical needs that were met, there is little to no focus on the emotional needs.

This can be difficult for kids who grew up with a parent like this because they are likely to deny their own struggles in the future. They might believe that they shouldn’t have anything to complain about because their experience wasn’t “bad enough” compared to those who did not have their physical needs met.

Being a parent is much more than just providing clothing, a roof over your head, and food on the table. For children to develop into healthy adults, they need to feel safe and supported to grow, be known, and express themselves.

Most emotionally immature parents have no awareness of how they’ve affected their children. To be clear, we aren’t placing blame on these parents, we are seeking to understand why they are the way they are. The goal here is to help you gain new insights about your parent(s) in order to increase your own self-awareness and emotional freedom.

  • Emotional Parents: The emotionally immature parent is often run by their feelings. They react to small upsets like the end of the world and tend to rely on external factors, like other people or intoxicants to soothe and stabilize them. The emotional parent will likely swing between being overly involved in their child’s life to abrupt withdrawal.
  • Driven Parents: The driven parent tends to look the most normal out of the four types, even appearing highly invested in their children’s lives. However, these parents are highly controlling and interfering, rarely pausing long enough to have true empathy and emotional connection with their children. Instead, the driven parent is often busy and compulsively goal-oriented. They often expect everyone to want and value the same things they do.
  • Passive Parents: The passive parent typically avoids dealing with anything upsetting. They are usually the “favorite” parent, seeming more emotionally available than the other types, but only up to a certain extent. The passive parent rarely offers their children any real limits or guidance to help them navigate the world. They prefer taking a backseat to a dominant partner, even allowing abuse and neglect to occur by looking the other way. The passive parent copes by minimizing problems and acquiescing.
  • Rejecting Parents: The rejecting parent mostly wants to be left alone. They often rule the family and home, everything revolves around them, and the family instinctively tries to not upset them. These parents show little to no closeness or real engagement with their children, and their interactions consist of issuing commands, blowing up, or isolating themselves from family life. When met with attempts to draw them into affectionate or emotional interactions, the rejecting parent will likely distance themself.

Three Elements of Rehab That Improve Emotional Maturity

No rehab program advertises itself as a way to help clients resolve emotional immaturity through treatment. The primary objective of mental health rehab is to help a person struggling with mental health issues. The building of emotional maturity is simply the means to an end in many cases.

Here are a few examples of standard parts of rehab that target cases of emotional immaturity:

  1. One-on-One Counseling – Standard inpatient rehab programs involve psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” in which a client sits down with a licensed professional and talks about their struggles. The gold standards in talk therapy methods are those that handle patterns of thinking — like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. CBT helps clients by unpacking the way they react and make decisions based on different stimuli in their lives. It focuses on the thought processes that affect their actions and provides more productive ways to think through likely scenarios. In a typical talk therapy setting, the goal is for a person to understand the underlying factors and possible outcomes when they make a decision. This is a sign of emotional growth.
  1. Group and Family Meetings – Group counseling sessions are another staple of most rehab programs. These focus less on personal exploration and more on getting clients to listen to each other and see things from different perspectives. When it’s time to share, they talk about their life experiences in a way that allows them to benefit from alternate points of view. The same is true when rehab programs get families involved, something that’s recommended whenever possible. When a person in treatment gets to hear from their loved ones with a clear head, they have an opportunity to understand how loved ones are affected by their substance use. Ultimately, this helps develop empathy, another marker of emotional maturity. Group and family interactions during rehab help clients see the ways their behavior affects those close to them.
  1. Recovery Groups – In rehab, aftercare planning is important. This helps ensure the lessons and practices of rehab are directly applicable to other recovery groups across the country. Emotionally stunted men or women are less likely to take responsibility for their actions, so being taught to be accountable in their lives signals real growth.

The Importance of Making a Commitment to Rehab

At the end of the day, emotional maturity is not the primary goal of rehab. However, emotionally immature women and men are more likely to struggle to recover than clients who have a greater understanding of the consequences of their decisions and the most constructive ways to deal with bad situations.

Emotionally Immature
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms of being emotionally immature, contact us today for mental health treatment.

Emotional maturity can make the difference between getting out of rehab and starting to spend time with old friends who still use substances and making the difficult choice to start fresh. It can mean developing new, healthier coping mechanisms. It can also mean returning to the things that worked — like therapy and group meetings — when things get difficult, instead of trying to overcome them on their own.

Programs at We Level Up FL are designed to integrate emotional growth in every aspect of treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with severe symptoms of being emotionally immature, don’t wait — reach out and get the help you need.

Sources

[1] American Psychological Association APA Dictionary of Psychology “emotional immaturity,”  “emotional maturity.”

[2] Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD – https://bookshop.org/a/18419/9781626251700

[3] Mental Health » Depression Treatment – We Level Up