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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Are Men Really Childish Boys?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 21st 2011

Are Men Really Boys Who Are Childish and Immature?Remember the musical, "Peter Pan?"


I won't grow up
I don't want to wear a tie.
I don't want to wear a tie
And a serious expression
And a serious expression
In the middle of July.
In the middle of July
And if it means I must prepare
To shoulder burdens with a worried air,

I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
Not me,
Not I,
Not me!
So there!"

Back in 1983, Dan Kiley wrote a book that he title the "Peter Pan Syndrome. He also coined the term, the "Wendy Syndrome."

More recently, Kay Hymowitz wrote, "Manning Up, Has the rise of women turned men into boys?" The theme of the book is that there is now what she calls the "child man" who doesn't grow up because he is being displaced in the work place by women. The outcome of the women's liberation movement is that women have turned men into boys. She also talks about what she calls, "Pre Adulthood," that ranges from the twenty's until the thirties.

Whether its "Pre Adulthood" or the Peter Pan syndrome, the message is that these "boys" will not make a commitment to a career, brag about their sexual exploits, sit around the living room with their buddies, watch football, drink beer and, look at pornography on the Internet and, in general, not take responsibility for anything in their lives. They may date a woman and promise to marry her but never get around to proposing. They may promise to get a job, but never do. They may promise to be monogamous, but never are and so on.

One may think that women find this maddening. However, according to the Peter Pan Syndrome, behind every child man is a "Wendy" who enables her man to remain a boy. Who is this Wendy? This is a woman, be it mother, girlfriend or wife, goes out to work to bring money home, pays the bills, and cares for her man-child in such ways as to allow him to remain a boy and never grow up.

Readers, men and women, what do you think about this?

Men, are us men really "Peter Pan?"

Women, are you Wendy?"

I await your comments, personal experiences and opinions with great interest. Responses to this article are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Forced to be "Wendy" for the kids sake - Kristen - May 20th 2011

In my case, I feel forced to be a "Wendy". I have four children who will also pay the price if the electricity is turned off, the car is reposessed, there is no money for groceries, the house is foreclosed on, or medical care is denied due to lack of payment. Yes, seperating is an option but then I have even less help than I do now. My man child does do some things that help but it is just a far cry from assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of his wife and kids. When the "shit hits the fan" he is playing his online game, leaving me to be the adult. I think before anyone criticizes "Wendy" for enabling, they should try to understand the situation as a whole. It truely feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

question - - Apr 1st 2011

And what happens when Wendy puts her foot down? I feel like I was a Wendy, but I wasn't a Wendy knowingly.  Peter Pan always had what I thought were believable explanations or excuses or blames for what was going on, but when I finally felt taken advantage of and I started voicing my frustration, he left me.  Is that common?  Do most leave after they realize they won't get what they want anymore?

boys and girls - michele happe - Mar 22nd 2011

Allen, I will write a blog about this in response.  Very good question and I concur about the enablers.....more soon!  I enjoy you entries very much.  Michele

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