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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Fearing Adulthood: 8 Potential Reasons

From the time we are children many of us fantasize about what it would be like to be an adult, e.g., ability to do whatever we want, eat whatever we want, stay up as late as we want, go out as much as we want, fall in love and live happily ever after, etc. Most children view the adult phase of life as a phase without restrictions, however, many adults have learned that this couldn’t be further from the truth. With adulthood comes more responsibility, romantic challenges (accepting happily ever after is more elusive than previously assumed) more dietary issues, transitioning from being provided for to the provider, work obligations, and family concerns.

As our body and mind mature, we develop, alter, and sometimes change our world view. With the adjustment of our world view comes with it the loss of innocence, loss of fantastical thinking, heroes, villains, and a combination of both successes and failures. As children we often see ourselves with limitless potential, unbreakable, and eternal. Rarely as children do we contemplate our own vulnerabilities and mortality. Losses of maturation, ultimately, point to our individual beliefs, how we hold them, why we need them, as well as the opportunity for them to be evaluated.

Losses occurring during maturation are more than just the loss of fantastical thinking, happily ever after, immortality, heroes, protagonists, simplicity, and purpose. The losses become more personable, we realize problems and situations do not always include a happy ending.

Possible Losses Occurring During Maturation Include:

  • Loss of Fantastical Thinking – As we transition from childhood to adulthood we lose fantastical thinking involving unicorns, flying carpets, ghouls, goblins, mermaids, (think never ending story), etc. We begin to view the world more from a critical viewpoint rather than through rose-colored glasses.
  • Loss of Happily Ever After – We begin to realize some things do not last forever, we may have to kiss several frogs to find the right person, or the right person for that specific time in our life. Sometimes heartbreak happens, love ends or it changes shape not allowing us to remain in a romantic relationship.
  • Loss of Immortality – Adults unlike children do not see themselves as eternal beings, rather, humans that are prone to injury, disease, aging, and death. For many of us, with age comes wisdom and maturity. We come to the realization that whatever lives must die, therefore, creating a legacy becomes a focal point.
  • Loss of Simplicity – The journey of life is not as simple as we initially assumed it would be as a child. Life can be very complicated with many peaks, valleys, winding turns, forks in the road, and unexpected twists.
  • Loss of Heroes – For children, parents are often their protectors and saviors. Parents are the cushion between the child and harm, parents keep them safe. However, our first significant loss of maturation is the loss of our parents or guardians. Most children do not see their parents as fragile, flawed, or capable of dying. It should be noted, facing our parents’ humanity is also no easy task, and it is one that continues as we, and they, age.
  • Loss of Impulsivity – For many adults engaging in impulsive behavior or making impulsive decisions is no longer an option, we must contemplate the risks associated with all decisions and actions. Children do not employ consequential thinking; therefore, they do not identify or consider the risks before they leap into action or make a snap decision which can alter their life forever.
  • Loss of Purpose – It is not uncommon to feel a loss of purpose once we end a career, a relationship, or our children become adults. As we age, life’s purpose must adjust to adapt to the changes in one’s life as well as recognition of the aging process. When we retire, a partner dies, we divorce, no longer must care for children, etc., we begin to question our purpose in life as it relates to maturation.
  • Loss of Attractiveness – People who exist in a child mode often possess an exaggerated positive image of themselves in certain areas. They “retain” a youthful appearance, they are free of lines, wrinkles, excessive weight gain, loss of hair, graying of hair, and physical/mental frailty. This sense of being special offers a kind of magical thinking that denies their vulnerability to death. On an unconscious level, they believe that death happens to someone else, never to them. They retain an image of invincibility and omnipotence, which served as a survival mechanism in early childhood, and utilize it whenever they become anxious regarding their mortality.

One of the biggest questions asked about individuals unable to or unwilling to “grow-up” includes “what is holding you back from maturing and leaving childhood things behind? Most people will agree, the answers would be both fear and complacency. Fearing possible failures, mortality, loss of purpose can create defenses that reduce death anxiety but act as a barrier to personal growth and maturity.

During the transition process from childhood to adulthood, when children feel overwhelmed by fear, they fragment into both the parent and the child. As they grow older, they continue to treat themselves as they were treated, both nourishing and punishing themselves in the same manner their parents did. The result is the individuals tendency to vacillate between the parental and childish state, both of which maintain immaturity.

Living as mature adults with limited defenses, leaves people acutely aware of their aloneness and of the uncertainty and ambiguity of life. Adjusting one’s world view I response to aging offers unlimited possibilities for personal gratification, self-exploration, and self-expression.

Fearing Adulthood: 8 Potential Reasons

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2018). Fearing Adulthood: 8 Potential Reasons. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Jul 2018
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