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The Peter Pan Syndrome

Today we see a social phenomenon that is different from generations past - when our children, who have left the nest, come back again to live with us. Of course there have been some pockets in our culture where it was normal for kids to get married and take over the family farm or business. But by and large, once children had struck out on their own they stayed there, whether they lived ten minutes or ten hours away.

Now, however, we see a growing trend where more and more kids come back borne after they have ventured away. The reasons can be varied - divorce, finances, health issues. etc .. but one of the more fascinating causes is the "Peter Pan Syndrome." This is when young men don't seem to want to grow up. Perhaps they have started college but have changed majors four times. They spend much of their energy playing video games and watching sports, combined with a variety of other immature behaviors and selfishness. They don't want to take responsibility or plan for anything beyond today.

What makes it worse is that our society and media affirm this attitude by assuring young men that it's okay to live a self-centered lifestyle, free of commitments to anything beyond endless and mindless pleasure. Some movies in the past few years have even made fun of the syndrome.

Recently Michael Kimmel wrote a book titled Guyland* that describes this state:

"Guyland" is the world in which young men live. It is both a stage of life, [an] undefined time span between adolescence and adulthood that can often stretch for a decade or more, and ... a bunch of places where guys gather to be guys with each other, unhassled by the demands of parents, girlfriends, job, kids, and the other nuisances of adult life. In this topsy-turvy, Peter-Pan mindset, young men shirk the responsibilities of adulthood and remain fixated on the trappings of boyhood, while the boys they still are struggle heroically to prove that they are real men despite all evidence to the contrary.

For young men in Guyland, traditional manhood is a fog. That is why it is so important for us who are older men to come along side and encourage these young people.

It is interesting that Paul in Titus 2 addresses these same issues. Paul admonishes older men to "urge" the younger men to be "sensible," and the older women are to "encourage" the younger women. Do you see evidence of the Peter Pan Syndrome around you? If so, would you consider mentoring a younger person?  (From Family Life, March 2010)

*Michael Kimmel, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (Understanding the Critical Years between 16 and 26). (New York HarperCollins, 2008)