Traits Of Immature People
This article is a long list of traits and behaviors that are often considered immature. Some of them can occur for other reasons, but people may still see them as signs of immaturity.
Maturity has obvious benefits, like making you a more functional person. Socially, mature people are generally better liked, though it's not a simple matter of trying to become as mature as possible. Maturity is like being nice, in that if you're below average in it you can be off-putting, but once you're at a normal level, going above that doesn't earn you a ton of bonus points. People do appreciate maturity and niceness, but it's not the main factor they consider when deciding whether they enjoy someone's company.
Some immature behaviors are worse than others. Some are unquestionably obnoxious. Others peg you as being emotionally young, but aren't that harmful. They just make more mature people chuckle to themselves and think, "Ah, I remember being like that back in the day."
Maturity is relative. If you're younger, you don't need to be some wise village elder. Just aim not to be annoyingly childish compared to everyone else around your age. Because they're young as well, your peers won't have outgrown many of their own immature traits, and don't expect anyone to act twenty years older than they are. You can end up feeling alienated if you look down on any hint of immaturity and try to set yourself above it all.
Also, maturity only helps you if you're truly mature, not behaving like a caricature of it. Maturity doesn't mean becoming some self-serious stick in the mud who never goofs around or blows off steam. It doesn't mean dressing like a stodgy accountant and staying in every weekend to watch World War II documentaries. It also doesn't mean acting really dark, cynical, and angsty. Also, someone isn't necessarily that mature just because they've checked off milestones like buying a house or having kids.
A giant list of immature traits
Poorer emotional regulation
Children don't have much control over their emotions. Their feelings come on fast and strong. They can have meltdowns over minor frustrations, like being told they can't have any grapes because dinner is soon. As people mature they gradually get better at containing their emotional ups and downs. This isn't to say they become stoic hyper-logical robots. It's just that if they're really sad or angry, more often than not they can pause and decide what to do with the feeling, rather than acting rashly. Less-mature people still let their emotions get the best of them.
Think of a stereotypical moody teenager who's had a minor disagreement with their friends. It's the worst tragedy ever. They're soooo upset. Their social life is over. The next day their crush smiles at them, and they're over the moon about the latest development in this grand romance. As people get older they stop seeing every little thing that happens to them as an intense twist in a never-ending soap opera. More immature adults haven't gotten past this tendency.
Acting childish when things don't go their way
When kids don't get what they want they can sulk, pout, whine, throw a hissy fit, stomp around and slam doors, or retreat to their room and refuse to come out. Immature adults keep doing these things past the point where they should have grown out of them.
Being more impulsive / not thinking ahead
A facet of having lower emotional regulation is behaving impulsively. Think of a twelve-year-old whose buddy says, "I dare you to jump from that balcony into the swimming pool", and he just does it without thinking. As we get older we get better at considering the consequences of our actions. Adults are seen as more immature if they still make dumb decisions on the spur of the moment.
Poorer long-term planning / wanting immediate gratification
Kids are generally short-term thinkers. If you give them a few dollars many are going to spend it a.s.a.p. on knick knacks or junk food, rather than tuck it away for a larger purchase. Adults are better at seeing the bigger picture and delaying a pay off. Immature adults do things like spend their entire savings on an expensive car stereo system, even though they have rent due in a week. They either don't consider their finances at all, or do, but are too impatient to wait until they have more cash saved up.
Worse shorter-term planning
Children aren't great at planning on their own. They need adults to force them to do things like set aside enough time to do their homework, because they'd watch TV or play video games all evening if left to their own devices. Adults can come across as immature when they still haven't gotten the hang of managing their time and priorities (e.g., not leaving themselves enough time to buy groceries before the store closed, because they were hanging out with their friends).
Taking lots of physical risks
Not all kids are little daredevils, but overall children take more physical risks than adults. They'll see a tree and just start climbing it, or spend hours trying to jump their skateboard down a bunch of stairs. As we age we get more careful. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with an adult who's an adrenaline junkie. It's just that some people will see their behavior as less-mature, especially if they take risks for seemingly dopey, spontaneous reasons.
Being less-independent and self-sufficient
One of the classic images of immaturity is a grown man or woman who still can't do their own cooking or laundry, and has their parents or partner do it for them. It's even worse if they don't think they're doing anything wrong and believe everyone should keep taking care of them.
A sense of entitlement
As a kid you are reasonably entitled to things like food, shelter, and an education, as you can't get them yourself. As most people reach adulthood they realize they're expected to be independent going forward, and that they'll have to earn things like a fulfilling career or relationship. Immature people keep believing they inherently deserve to have the things they want just given to them.
Kids see the world as revolving around them. There's nothing evil or mean-spirited about it. It's just how their brains are wired. Plus they're relatively helpless and their parents have to provide a lot of support, so it's natural they'd have a mindset where they think the universe caters to them. As we mature we start to consider other people's needs and perspectives, and stop thinking everything is about us.
Seeing other people as a means to an end
A facet of being egocentric is viewing other people as objects to help you meet your own needs. Immature people can be thoughtless users or takers. For example, they'll use friends for favors or car rides. It's not out of malice, but because they take for granted that whatever they want will be everyone else's top priority too.
Less respect for other people's money
When you're a child your parents pay for most things. It's understandable that kids can't fully grasp the value of money, or the time and work it takes to earn it. They may assume someone will always buy them the things they need, or get mad because their parents can't get them some expensive new shoes at the drop of a hat. You'll come across as immature if you're grown, but still expect other people to pay your way, or you don't seem to appreciate it when they buy something for you.
Less respect for other people's property
When you're a kid you have some toys and clothes to call your own, but the bigger items are all owned by adults. The idea of, say, treating the washing machine well so it lasts longer isn't on your radar. For this reason kids and teenagers can give less consideration to other people's stuff. Like a fourteen-year-old may borrow a friend's video game, but leave the disc out when they're not using it and let it get scratched. You'll be seen as immature if you're still casually thoughtless with other people's things when you're older.
Generally speaking, children and teenagers aren't as empathetic as adults (that's not to say they're completely heartless, or that every grown up is a saint). Partially that's due to their egocentric orientation to life. They also haven't had as much time to learn about other people's perspectives and struggles.
One side effect of lower empathy is being tactless, and blurting out whatever pops into your head, without considering how it could impact other people. This article covers a few others. One more worth mentioning in this piece is...
Being a jerk or a bully, especially in typically immature ways
It's no secret that kids can be horrible to each other. Just being a jerk when you're older can cause everyone to see you as someone whose mind is still stuck in middle school. You'll seem particularly immature if you act douchey in a style associated with kids. A few examples:
- Teasing people over pointless things they can't control, like their unusual last name
- Mocking someone for having a positive trait, like being smart
- Annoying people for your own amusement (e.g., playing Dungeons & Dragons with your friends after school, and being an irritating character who tries to derail the campaign at every turn)
- Being obnoxious or inconsiderate to people for no reason other than to "get a reaction"
- Being unsympathetic and mean when someone is suffering (e.g., "You're feeling car sick? Oh my god, you're such a wimp! Ha ha, I bet you puke!!!")
- Spreading malicious gossip
- Trying to get friends kicked out of the group for petty reasons
- Playing mean pranks
- Bragging in a way that throws someone under the bus, e.g., a guy boasting about a woman he slept with, and sharing too many private details about her
Less sense of personal responsibility
What do kids often do when they mess up? They try to get out of it. They won't say what they did, and hope no one notices. If they're confronted they may deny they had a part in it, or try to blame someone else. Even if they're given ironclad evidence they screwed up, they may refuse to admit what they did was wrong. When a mature adult makes a mistake they step up and try to make things right. Immature adults still behave like kids who will do anything to avoid "getting in trouble".
Immature people also don't think anything is their fault. If they get reprimanded at their job for always being late, it's not that they need to work on their priorities or time management skills. Their boss is a jerk and out to get them, and the traffic is bad, and there are long lines at the place where they stop to get coffee on the way to work. If they get into an argument with their partner they may say something like, "You made me get mad and snap at you."
Being more likely to lie
Some kids go through a phase where they lie a lot for no reason other than it's a new thing they've realized they can do. Most people have had a high school classmate who B.S.'ed and talked out their ass about the most pointless, easy to disprove things. And some adults have had that immature friend who still feels the need to spin elaborate tales about the high-end nightclub they're about to open.
Having a poor attention span / getting bored or distracted easily
Kids are naturally distractible, have trouble sitting still, and quickly get bored if they're not being entertained. People naturally get better at holding their attention and tolerating a lack of stimulation as their brains develop. There are some legitimate reasons someone may carry these traits into adulthood, like having ADHD. However, at a glance someone might see them as a sign of immaturity.
Needing a ton of attention
No one wants to be completely ignored, but overall adults don't need to constantly have the focus on them the way kids do. Children will get antsy if the adults in the room talk just to each other for too long. They can have such a need to be acknowledged they can misbehave, to at least get unpleasant attention over none at all. Immature adults can have that same mentality where they feel uneasy if the conversation isn't centered on them, and sometimes act out to regain the spotlight.
Needing a lot of validation
Children like constant encouragment and praise. Think of how they can be motivated at school by gold star stickers. Adults enjoy validation of course, but they're better at operating without a constant supply of it. Less-mature people still need a steady hit. They fish for compliments. They make social media posts to get pats on the back. They may be in a serious relationship, but still flirt all the time because they can't give up the rush of knowing someone's into them.
An overly antagonistic attitude toward authority
By the time they're teenagers, kids can be pretty sick of authority figures. Parents, teachers, coaches, and other adults have been telling them what to do and thwarting their fun for years. They can develop a knee-jerk attitude that anyone with any authority is a lame, out of touch buzzkill. They may purposely defy or annoy them to try to even the score in their mind.
As most people get older their view toward authority softens. They realize their boss may not be perfect, but is just a fellow adult who's trying to do their job. Less-mature people never lose that teenage mindset about anyone with power over them. They still see their supervisor as a cartoonishly strict teacher, and may feel compelled to talk back to them or engage in other petty acts of rebellion and defiance. They may see someone who gets along with their manager as a teacher's pet.
Similarly, adults can also seem immature if they still have a grade school mentality about rules, e.g.,"Breaking the rules means you're an edgy rebel. Following them means you're a wussy little goody goody" or "If someone breaks the rules the worst thing you can do is tattle on them."
Doing things that show an obvious lack of adult knowledge and life experience
These paint you as naive to older people, but are otherwise innocuous, unless you're really sure of your views in a grating way:
- Simply having less knowledge about aspects of adult life (e.g., you make a comment that gives away that you haven't been in many relationships, or that you've never had to stick to a budget).
- Getting overly excited about run of the mill adult activities or privileges (e.g., college kids who have clearly just started going to bars. They're so giddy about things like being able to order shots. Older folks still enjoy a drink, but they're more relaxed about it.)
- Being overly proud of status indicators that really only apply to younger people. For example, in university you may seem popular and connected if you know several of the staff at the local student pub. When you're older no one is really that impressed if you happen to be acquaintances with a handful of bouncers or bartenders.
- Being boastful about having a sex life. In high school if you have sex before your friends, it might be a sign you're more attractive and confident than them. In the adult world pretty much everyone has a love life, and you'll just seem clueless and obnoxious if you try to brag about the fact that you're getting laid.
- Having poorer manners / not being as aware of little social guidelines and niceties.
- Not knowing how to handle alcohol (not that every adult has to drink). Making rookie mistakes like quickly drinking more than you can handle, before the booze has a chance to kick in. More mature people don't fastidiously count their drinks, but even when they're letting loose, they have a sense of what their limits are.
- Having thoughts and opinions about the world that you think are really original and profound, when they're actually common and cliched. Lecturing older people about your new "discoveries", as if they haven't heard about it all already.
Cockiness / blind overconfidence
A part of cockiness is being so sure of yourself because you don't have the life experience to know you're not actually as great as you think you are. Younger people are more prone to cockiness for this reason. More mature adults have greater perspective about their abilities.
Having classically immature values and priorities
A bunch of value systems are associated with teenagers and young adults. Some of these are okay in moderation, but definitely seen as immature if taken too far:
- Having simplistic ideas of what it means to have value or status as a person (e.g., "She's better than her friend because she's prettier and more skilled at drawing", "He's a loser, because he's never had a girlfriend.") Judging people based on what they've done or what superficial traits they have, rather than their deeper character or intrinsic value as a human being.
- Thinking about success and status in number-focused ways. The person who's done the best in their career is the one who's made the most money, the guy who's the most successful at dating is the one who's slept with the most people, etc.
- Placing too much importance on fitting in and peer acceptance. Doing things like neglecting their career so their go nowhere buddies will still accept them.
- Being overly competitive about pointless things, like who can drink a beer the fastest.
- Valuing materialism and excess. Thinking the height of success is owning a bunch of flashy possessions, and showing off by throwing your money around.
- Valuing sexual conquests for their own sake. There's nothing wrong with wanting casual sex, but it having it doesn't automatically make you better than someone who isn't sleeping around.
- Valuing being young and youth culture for its own sake. Having a black and white mentality that anything new is good, and anything associated with older generations is bad.
- Valuing the ability to drink or do a lot of drugs for its own sake.
- Glorifying criminal behaviors and lifestyles. More mature people can watch movies about gangsters or pimps or whatnot, and think they make for interesting characters, but they don't have have that sense of, "Oh man, it would be so awesome to be a drug dealer!"
- Valuing physical toughness, and looking to get into a bunch of fights.
- Having stereotypically immature life goals, that seem shaped more by the media than real-world experience (e.g., "It would so amazing to own a strip club, where you could get wasted and hang out with hot chicks for the rest of your life.")
- Being excessively hedonistic. There's nothing wrong with going through a phase when you're younger where you just want to party and hook up all the time, but most people will think you've got some maturing to do if you're still acting that way at 45.
- Putting having fun with your friends way ahead of the other responsibilities in your life, especially once you have a family.
- Living totally to have fun in the moment, and not having any long-term goals. It's not that everyone needs a strict five-year plan, but most adults have some things they're working toward.
- Being oblivious about your health - eating mostly junk food, not exercising, drinking too much, etc. Maturity doesn't mean having to be an uptight health freak, but most adults don't eat fast food and candy for every meal either.
- In some people's view, being overly into "kids" hobbies like gaming, comics, or following sports. I don't personally agree with them, but parts of society believe any adult who's still really into those things is emotionally stunted.
Having an overly immature sense of humor
Everyone laughs at crude humor from time to time, but you can seem juvenile if it's the main thing you find funny, or you seem way more amused by it than other people:
- Farting, pooping, burping, and other bodily functions
- Watching people hurt themselves
- Hurting yourself to entertain your buddies (e.g., eating a super-spicy pepper in front of them)
- Doing dumb things to mess with authority figures
- Generally not being able to take anything seriously. Derailing any attempts to take an interaction in a more serious direction.
An immature approach to relationships
Here are some things less-mature people do in their relationships with their friends, family members, and romantic partners:
- Having unrealistic expectations for their relationships, which might be mainly shaped by the media. They may expect their friends to always be available to hang out, provide endless emotional support, or always put them first. They might assume their partners will be able to read their mind, be over the top romantic, or always be up for sex. They could believe their parents should be supportive of everything they do, and give them money whenever they ask for it.
- Making premature, excessive commitments / quickly escalating their relationships. Think of how two kids can decide they're best friends after playing together for an hour.
- Being fickle and ending friendships quickly and easily, over something tiny.
- Making grand, melodramatic relationship gestures, e.g., declaring they'll never love again after someone they've been seeing for a week and a half "breaks up" with them.
- Playing games rather than being direct, e.g., pretending to be busy after a really great second date, because they don't want to seem too eager.
- Feeling insecure and fragile about their relationships, getting clingy or jealous easily. Think of a child who feels threatened and competitive because their dad gives the neighbor's kid a minute of attention.
- Never fully outgrowing the mentality that the opposite sex are an icky, inscrutable enemy team.
- Viewing relationships based on "quantity" rather than "quality" factors, e.g., "You spend more time with them / do more expensive things with them, so you like them better than me."
An immature approach to conflict
There are several reasons someone might act these ways in a conflict, but one of them is still immaturity:
- Focusing on "winning" or being right in a disagreement, instead of trying to come to a mutual understanding or solve a problem together.
- Playing dirty in order to "win" an argument, like denying they said something that undermines their point, or attacking the other person's character.
- Resorting to childish insults.
- Hating to be corrected. Not being able to admit when they're wrong. Doubling down instead.
- Quickly escalating small differences of opinion into nasty arguments. Not being able to have a fairly calm discussion (this isn't to say mature people never feel any emotions during a conflict).
- Being passive-aggressive, instead of handling a problem directly (e.g., acting moody to punish their friend for cancelling on them at the last second).
- Holding onto grudges.
- Getting caught up in petty rivalries.
An immature approach to problem solving or negotiation
If a mature person wants something from someone they might try to use logical reasoning to argue their case, or offer a sensible compromise or trade. Someone who's less-mature will resort to tactics like sulking, begging, cheap emotional manipulation, threats to not hang out anymore, and so on.
Being a poor sport / bad teammate
- Doing things to annoy your opponent, like playing video games with someone in person and reaching over and pushing buttons on their controller
- Being a sore loser
- Being a bad winner, e.g., gloating to the losing team
- Sabotaging a group game for everyone else if it's not going their way
- Playing in a way that's fun for them or gives them a chance for glory, even if it hurts the team's efforts
Behaving childishly in groups
Teenagers and young adults can get more obnoxious when they're out with a bunch of their friends. They get amped up and bold. They get loud and rowdy. They show off to each other. They start messing with random people. Think of a bunch of young guys driving to a nightclub, yelling stupid things out the window to people on the street.
Having a young sounding way of talking
Even if someone is mentally their age, they can be seen as less-mature if they have a style of speaking associated with teenagers:
- Using a lot of filler words or phrases, such as "like" or "you know?"
- Speaking with a stereotypical ditzy or dopey teenage cadence
- Giggling and shrieking a lot
- Talking too loudly, not knowing how to control the volume of their voice
- Using a ton of slang
Having young seeming body language
- Having wide-eyed, naive, innocent body language
- Having bouncy, excitable, perky energy
- Giving off a stereotypical "sullen, mopey teenager" vibe
Dressing or decorating in a younger way
Picture a forty-one-year-old who still dresses like a high school student, or someone in their fifties whose house is decorated like a dorm room. Again, there's nothing intrinsically better or worse about certain clothes or decorations, but some styles may cause others to see you as being a child in an adult's body.
Behaving in ways associated with children
Here's a final catch all category:
- Horsing around / rough housing
- Taunting people literally like a child would, e.g., sticking out your tongue and going "Nyah, nyah!"
- Showing off
- Not being able to share or take turns
- Being mindlessly destructive, e.g., walking down the street and kicking over a trashcan for no reason
- Being disruptive during "class", e.g., cracking dumb jokes at a staff meeting
- Not being able to restrain yourself in settings where you're expected to behave, e.g., giggling and whispering throughout a wedding
- Being a picky eater - I don't mean someone who chooses to go on a restricted diet, or has to avoid certain foods due to allergies. I mean an adult who refuses to eat most things aside from chicken fingers and grilled cheese sandwiches. (That doesn't mean the immature label is always fair. Some people just have an extra-sensitive sense of taste and can't eat as many foods.)