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We are all born as infants and are totally dependent upon our mothers to care for us but by about two years old we become aware of ourselves as separate from the world and other people. We are then called children are expected to behave as children behave. However, there are some older people who still behave in these childish ways, which demand instant gratification of there wants and who display destructive actions when they cannot have their instant gratifications. Many physically grownup people, I hesitate to call them adults, have traits which express this lack of emotional development. I mentioned this lack as a list in my blog A Maturity Quotient MQ-test to replace IQ-tests as:

  • Need for closure
  • Belief perseverance
  • Confirmation bias
  • Overconfidence
  • Openness to experience
  • Faith in intuition
  • Counterfactual thinking
  • Categorical thinking
  • Superstitious thinking
  • Dogmatism
  • The list is based on Keith Stanovich’s work with rigid thinkers. I see those traits as being associated with grownups who failed to go through the developmental stage usually called adolescence. These people are functionally children in possession of grownup bodies. They may have grownup IQs, exposure to experience and social obligations but they consistently approached their problems in ways characteristic of children and built their habit patterns for coping using childish strategies. These worked adequately for them because they were never forced by their environment to move into an adolescent mode much less on to more demanding adult behavior. Partly this development is possible because there are pockets of childish grownups who form social groups and children born into these groups can cultivate these childish behaviors to a higher degree.

    This new developmental cultural style is similar to a new learned language which in the first instances is like a mongrel pidgin which doesn’t work very well but the next generation learns it from their parents it is called a creole these young people make the solutions work more naturally. Then after a couple of generations it evolves into a what is like a natural language or in this case a natural social order. A social group after it has been around for several human generations will have many aspects that are similar to the creation of a new language. Thus we find aspects of the list above deeply ingrained into these groups as their social institutions like words and grammar in a new language. To adult people out side of the group, looking at it with a broader mental view of an outsider, the behavior is as incomprehensible as a foreign language and looks contrived and foolish but generally these outsiders just let the crazy things pass by as being the way those particular people do things. The insiders get by okay if the stressors are not to extreme.

    When one recognizes the traits on the list above as being childish traits in adult bodies and in adult social institutions it becomes easier to understand them and to show their leaders the best ways to help their people grow. Everyone wants more of the good things that life has to offer and fewer of the bad things and when people grow to more mature ways of relating to the world and other people things work out better for them. Life at every level is a vast array of learned habits of how to react to particular situations. We do very little real thinking based on analysis and almost always just flow through our present situation using the habits we accidently cultivated earlier.

    Childish behavior in grownups is a set of childish habits applied to grownup situations. The same situations could have elicited adolescent responses or adult ones but those behaviors had to be available to be applied in the situations and they needed to be learned. When we are exposed to really new situations we must learn new habits and if we do this with a more mature form of coping our overall life will become more mature.

    A human being loaded with childish habits will behave as a child.

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