7 Characteristics of Emotionally Immature People
What is Immature Psychological Development?
Immature psychological development is defined by emotional immaturity a “tendency to express emotions without restraint or disproportionately to the situation.”
Many factors can contribute to emotional immaturity such as experiences of abuse, neglect, insecure attachment, neurodevelopmental disorders that impact social development and impulse control, untreated addiction, mental health problems, and high-conflict personality disorders.
Those who struggle with emotional immaturity display emotional reactions that are more characteristic of a developing child rather than a grown adult such as selfishness, self-centeredness, and impulsivity. Emotionally immature people lack the development of emotional and social skills that promote the ability to effectively relate with others and manage emotions.
What Does Emotional Immaturity Look Like?
Lack of Awareness/ Limited Insight
An emotionally immature person does not consider how their behaviors impact others. They lack awareness of other people’s feelings and have limited insight into their emotions and role in behaviors. This is often impacted by underdeveloped emotional and social skills.
An emotionally immature person struggles with effectively communicating their emotions. They may become easily overwhelmed with emotions and shut down, display defensiveness, or become reactive. Management of conflict is a common concern within relationships due to avoidance of conflict or poor conflict management skills. An emotionally immature person may be reactive or dismissive to feedback and resistance to change.
Emotional or Physical Reactivity
Along with ineffective communication and underdevelopment of skills, emotional and/ or physical reactivity can be problematic. Immature ways of relating such as name-calling or having outbursts (e.g., throwing things) when upset may be present. Words can be insensitive, emotionally abusive, hurtful, and lack appropriateness to the situation. Physical behaviors may also be present, often of an unpredictable nature due to poor emotional regulation.
Poor Impulse Control
An emotionally immature person often acts on impulse rather than thinking ahead. They struggle with planning and thinking about the future. Behaviors can break norms of socially accepted behaviors and lead to negative consequences such as legal issues.
Avoidance of Responsibility/ Lack of Accountability
Commitment to responsibilities in important areas of functioning such as home, work/ school, and relationships may be ongoing concerns. Lack of accountability is often problematic for an emotionally immature person. Blame is often placed on others rather than taking responsibility for their role. Excuses are common.
Behaviors often draw attention back to the individual who may act in negative or socially inappropriate ways to gain attention. An emotionally immature person may display narcissism and appear to only care about themselves. They can present themselves as selfish or aloof.
Struggles with Emotional Intimacy
Connecting on a deeper level can be difficult as an emotionally immature person may deflect, change topics of conversation, use distraction, or respond in a way that diverts conversation (e.g., laughing).
How Can I Cope with an Emotionally Immature Person?
If you are closely connected with a person who struggles with emotional maturity, you may need to adjust some expectations within the relationship and work on creating healthy boundaries. Seeking professional help is recommended since a therapist can help address any concerns of safety, help you process dynamics within the relationship, promote self-care, and learn skills such as communication strategies.
What are some Helpful Strategies?
Direct communication using I-statements, reiterating conversations, working on regulating own emotions, and using positive reinforcement to help shape the other person’s responses can be helpful. When the other person has some level of awareness and is willing to work on changes within the relationship then, the greater likelihood of progress is possible.
Therapists are experts in addressing these areas and can support the person who struggles with emotional immaturity. After assessing the presenting concerns and impact on functioning, therapists will create a customized treatment plan.
Examples of areas that may be addressed include the following:
- Increasing awareness of emotions in self and others
- Learning how to express and regulate emotions
- Using effective interpersonal communication skills
- Improving impulse control and taking personal accountability
- Learning how to “fight fair” and manage conflicts
- Recognizing how to build emotional intimacy
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC