Peter Pan Syndrome
“Men Who Don’t Grow”:
Developing a Scale
, Meryem Vural Batık
, Leyla Kaya
and Merve Turan
Peter Pan Syndrome is a concept that used to characterize the “never-growing” men
who have reached an adult age, but cannot face their adult sensations and respon-
sibilities. Individuals with Peter Pan Syndrome have difficulties in social and profes-
sional relationships because of their irresponsible behaviors and narcissistic
properties. The purpose of this study is to develop a scale in order to measure the
level of Peter Pen Syndrome in male individuals. In accordance with this purpose, the
draft form was sent to experts to get their feedback, and some statements have been
revised in accordance with the feedback. The Peter Pan Syndrome Scale is a twenty-
two-item self-report measurement, and each item is evaluated on five-point
Likert Type scale. Construct validity of the scale was determined by exploratory
factor analysis (EFA) and a three-factor model was created, namely, “Escape from
Responsibility”, “Power Perception,” and “Never Growing Child”. EFA results
shows that these three factors were describing 47.05% of the variance. Results of
EFA were verified by confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). The internal consistency
coefficient and the confidence coefficient of the split-half were used to determine
the reliability of the scale. The Cronbach’s alpha value was found to be 0.88 for the
Faculty of Education, University of Ondokuz Mayıs, Samsun, Turkey
Il Saglik Mudurlugu, Samsun, Turkey
TUBITAK Marmara Arastirma Merkezi, Gebze-Kocaeli, Turkey
Melek Kalkan, Faculty of Education, University of Ondokuz Mayıs, Samsun 55270, Turkey.
Men and Masculinities
2021, Vol. 24(2) 245-257
ªThe Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
psychology, family, emotion, hegemonic masculinity, culture
One of the most important tasks of life is that an individual develops an appropriate
identity concept by passing through various developmental stages. Consistency and
continuity are important for the concept of identity, which can be defined as the
answer to the question “Who am I?”, especially when it becomes visible in interper-
sonal relations and externally observed behaviors. Erikson (1968) emphasizes the
importance of psychosocial wellness in the development of an individual’s identity.
According to him, the sense of belonging and the sense of acceptance by their relatives
helps an individual to acquire the appropriate identity concept (Arslan 2008).
Although the critical period for identity acquisition is adolescence, identity acqui-
sition is not a process that begins and ends with puberty (Ilhan and O
The concept of “emerging adulthood” developed by Arnett (1994) is a developmen-
tal period that includes the era between puberty and adulthood. People in emerging
adulthood state that they have completed puberty, but have not yet seen themselves
as adults (Dogan and Cebiog
˘lu 2011). The word “adult” comes from the term “grow”
from the Latin word, and it includes physiological and psychological growth. Being
an adult is assumed to have mattered in these aspects. Arnett (2004) mentions
psychological determiners that are important in the transition to adulthood. The first
one is that the process of “completing separation-individualization” and the second
one is the process of “psychological maturity,” which includes features such as
impulse control, taking responsibility, and having a non-centralist perspective (Atak,
Desserts, Cokamay, Buyukpabuscu, and Much 2016).
Kiley (1997) used the concept of Peter Pan Syndrome to identify men who did not
comply with these adult characteristics; the concept comes from a hero form story.
Peter Pan, the hero James M. Barrie created, originally emerged from Barrie’s life
story. Barrie, who impersonated his deceased brother and never grew up in this role,
cannot assume responsibility for not growing up and cannot have a long-term emo-
tional relationship with a woman (Skinner 1957).
Peter Pan Syndrome, created from the story, is a concept used to describe the
“never-growing” men who have reached an adult age, but cannot face their adult
emotions and responsibilities. There is a noticeable mismatch between the age and
maturity levels of these men. Kiley (1997) portrayed this situation as “trapped in hell
between the man who no longer wants to be, and the child he cannot be.” The figure
of Peter Pan can also be seen as a conceptual filter-ambivalent condition for a
growing adolescent moratorium between childhood and adulthood (Fried and Van-
dereycken 1989). Mirkin (1983) also describes it as a syndrome that involves staying
as a child and thus sustaining protection of the parents.
Although the roots of the syndrome are based on childhood, the symptoms show
up around the age of twelve years. According to Kiley, there is a pronounced
246 Men and Masculinities 24(2)
irresponsibility, especially in the age of eleven—twelve years. An individual is
affected by the problematic environment between the mother and father at the age
of thirteen—fourteem years, and it leads to a very anxious environment for entering
puberty. When irresponsibility and uneasiness are combined, the state of dilatoriness
that is the main characteristics of the psychological profile of the syndrome emerges.
And ultimately, the individual refuses to attempt anything, making sure that his
effort will not work. Instead, procrastination is seen in chosen activities. At the
beginning of puberty, the person decides that something goes wrong between
their parents and that the wrong is about him. The apparent problem for the ages
of fifteen—sixteen years is the feeling of loneliness. The inability to enter groups of
friends; even if entering a friendship group, not seeing themselves as a member of
the group, and engaging in inappropriate situations strengthen their loneliness. When
it comes to the age of seventeen—eighteen years, a period of intense sexual involve-
ment begins. Emerging sexual attitudes are often lacking in warmth and restricted to
the search for biological satisfaction. Any approval or disapproval that comes from
others is sufficient for him to feel valued or worthless. Such situations drag him
between manic and depressive emotion situations. The individual has learned to
steer clear of their emotions in order to not get hurt, and therefore tend to be cold
and indifferent. In the age of nineteen—twenty years, the pursuit of perfection and
narcissism are evident, which is used to cover the emotions of distrust and worth-
lessness. In addition to narcissism, in the age of twenty-one—twenty-two years,
chauvinism becomes a part of his daily life. It is a way of making him feel like
he is a grown up. After the age of thirty years, he feels disappointed in spite of all his
efforts, and the feelings of loneliness, inability to belong, and despair begin to cope
People with this syndrome feel valuable to the extent that they are accepted by
other people. However, they have difficulties in interpersonal relationships because
of their ability to search for perfection, such as narcissism and chauvinism. Another
issue that complicit their relationship is that they tend to always attribute responsi-
bility to something or to someone else because they do not want to accept their own
mistakes (Kiley 1997). These people are struggling to express their emotions; there-
fore, they can often only turn to sexuality oriented relationships rather than emo-
tional proximity (Quadrio 1982). On the other hand, they expect the woman to act as
their mother, and prefer a woman who can protect them from internal conflicts, and
who feels compassion for them because of the woman’s obedience and emotional
weaknesses (Kiley 1997).
According to Quadrio (1982), men with Peter Pan Syndrome tend to have
instability in their profession and career issues, similar to their romantic relation-
ships. In general, they wants a career, but they do not want to work for it. The
person is not encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, and is also left
suppressing their sensitivity and other characteristics that may be interpreted as
weakness (Kiley 1997).
Kalkan et al. 247
Seven prominent features in the psychological profile of an individual with Peter
Pan Syndrome are as follows (Kiley 1997): a) Emotional paralysis: Emotions are dull
or expressed in inappropriate forms. For example, anger often arises as an intense
rage; happiness become hysteria of joy, and frustration can turn into self-pity. Indi-
viduals with Peter Pan Syndrome are extremely self-centered. b) Dilatoriness: There
is a pronounced apathy as an extension of the negative self-image. There are also
uncertain or not well-defined targets, as they postpone thinking about their goals in
life. c) Social impotence: These men feel very alone, anxious about their loneliness.
But despite the wishes and requirements of belonging, it can be said that they cannot
acquire real friends. Refraining from taking responsibility for their actions is a
condition that complicating social relationships. d) The magic thought: They refrain
from accepting their mistakes clearly and taking responsibility for their actions. e)
Mother’s calendar: The individual wants to get rid of the influence of his mother; but
every time he tries it, he feels guilty. This situation is especially manifested when he
get close to a woman. He wants the woman in his life to behave in a certain way and
within the boundaries he draws, and puts her in his mother’s place. He becomes angry
when the woman in his life deviates from his expectations. f) Father’s calendar:An
individual is missing being close to his father; but he decides he would never get his
father’s love and approval. He feels alienated from his father and experiences prob-
lems with men who represent authority in the later stages of his life. g) Sexual
calendar: A woman is supposed to be addicted to a man so he can feel like protecting
the woman. He misses sharing his sensibility with a woman, but he denies that aspect
of his personality for fear that his friends will see his as a weak person. Although he is
afraid of being rejected by women, he may exhibit rude and critical attitudes towards
them. It is far from showing consistent attitudes in relations with the opposite sex.
In the background, these people are not satisfied with their parents’ marriages and
with themselves. The lack of sharing and emotional warmth in the family is appar-
ent. There is a father who is emotionally camouflaged, and an overprotective and
commanding mother figure. There are often no direct-voiced relationship issues
between the mother and father. These problems are usually transmitted through
messages covered by the boy in question (Kiley 1997). The child who sees his
mother as an almighty, hostile, and controlling person feels oppressed by her (Quad-
rio 1982). With alienation from father and the guilt and anger towards mother, a low
self-image is developing, and as a result, the person does not feel a sense of belong-
ing to his family (Kiley 1997).
Dalla, Marchetti, Sechrest, and White (2010) did a study with women who have
husbands with Peter Pan Syndrome, and they found that these men were never able
to establish a real close relationship with their wives, drank too much alcohol, did
not work, showed a tendency towards deception, were not emotionally involved in
the relationship. In this study, four themes emerged in the long-term close relations
of women: limited spouse support, substance abuse, deception, and co-violence.
The explanations given earlier show that individuals with Peter Pan Syndrome
experience difficulties in close relationships, and business and social relations in the
248 Men and Masculinities 24(2)
context of not being responsible, not behaving like an adult, and having narcissistic
properties. The number of studies on Peter Pan Syndrome is very small when the
literature is examined. In Turkey, there is no scientific study on this issue. In the
present study, a Turkish version of the Peter Pan Syndrome Scale was developed,
and validity and reliability studies of the developed scale were done. It is thought
that determining the level of having Peter Pan Syndrome is important for psycho-
logical assistance to individuals, and it can be used in psychological symptoms,
romantic relations, and career research. In this context, a measurement tool was
developed, and the validity-confidence level was determined in the study.
This study was performed with male individuals over eighteen years of age, deter-
mined by a random sampling method. About 60.6%of respondents were single (n ¼
241), 35.4%were married (n ¼141) and 4%were divorced. The parents of 84.2%of
the men participating in the study are both alive, and the parents of 89.9%are
together. The average age of the participants is 29.85 (Ss ¼7.99).
In the process of developing the Peter Pan Syndrome Scale, two working groups
were created: In the first study group, data was collected from 190 male individuals,
and with this data, item analysis and the exploratory factor analysis (EFA) were
conducted. The second working group consisted of 208 male individuals who were
reached for confirmatory factor analysis (CFA).
The first stage of the development process of the Peter Pan Syndrome Scale is
reviewing the literature for Peter Pan Syndrome. Then, an item pool consisting of
thirty-one expressions, which is considered to cover all the features of Peter Pan
Syndrome, is prepared. The statements in the generated item pool are presented to
three faculty members, whose specialty is psychological counseling and guidance.
Some statements have been revised in accordance with feedback from these experts
in terms of subject, scope, and language use. A 5-point Likert-type trial scale was
created for thirty-one items (1-Strongly disagree, 2-Partially agree, 3-Moderately
agree, 4-Mostly agree, 5-Strongly agree).
In the second stage, a thirty-one-item trial scale has been applied to 190 male
participants, and the item analysis and EFA was conducted. Item total correlation
values have been taken into consideration with six items. According to EFA findings
on the remaining twenty-five items, three items were extracted and twenty-two items
In the third stage, a twenty-two-item scale was applied to 208 male participants,
and CFA on the data was calculated and the adaptation values of the model were
computed. Finally, the reliability coefficients of the scale are calculated.
Kalkan et al. 249
Data Collection and Analysis
The data were collected from male individuals over 18 years of age, and through the
internet in accordance with voluntary participation. The scale application took
approximately ten minutes. SPSS 21 and AMOS 22 programs were used in the
analysis of the data.
Exploratory Factor Analysis
The scale consisting of thirty-one items was applied to the 190 male participants, and
correlations of item-total scores were calculated. Item-total test correlation is one of
the item analysis techniques used in item selection when developing a scale, and it is
recommended that the correlation value be higher than 0.30 (Bu
C¸ akmak, Akgu
¨n, Karadeniz, and Demirel 2012). In light of this information, six
items with item-total test correlation values below 0.30 were removed and twenty-
five items were left on the trial scale.
In order to determine the construct validity of the scale, first, conformity of the
data to the factor analysis was examined with the Barlett Sphericitiy test and the
Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) coefficient. The value of the KMO is greater than sixty,
and the significance of the Barlett test suggests that the data is suitable for factor
¨rk 2011). In this study, the KMO sample coefficient and the
Barlett Sphericitiy test w
value were founded to be 0.839 and 1,706,295 (p < 0.001)
respectively. These results indicate that the data is suitable for factor analysis.
To determine the factor structure and sub-dimensions of the twenty-five-item trial
scale, the EFA has been conducted and varimax vertical rotation technique has been
applied. By examining the factor load values in the sub-dimensions of each item,
items with factor load less than 0.30 are removed (Brown 2014). In addition, the
difference between the two highest factor loads of an item should not be less than
¨rk et al. 2012). Accordingly, three items with less than 0.10 differ-
ences between the factor loadings in the sub-dimensions have been extracted. Then,
EFA was conducted again for the remaining twenty-two items and their values were
examined. In this regard, the value of the first factor is 6,668 and the value of the
second factor is calculated as 2,127. The values of the third, fourth, and fifth factors
were 1,556, 1,307, and 1,080 respectively. When the literature is taken into consid-
eration and the scree plot given in Figure 1 is examined, it can be said that the data is
more suitable for the three-factor structure.
The three-factor structure was formed by taking into consideration the literature,
the values, and the Scree plot. These three factors explain the 47.05%of the total
variance. The value of the first factor was calculated as 6,668, which explains the
17.81%of the variance of the Peter Pan Syndrome variable. The value of the second
factor is calculated as 2,127, which explains the 15.53%of the variance of Peter Pan
Syndrome. The value of the third factor is calculated as 1,556, which explains the
250 Men and Masculinities 24(2)
13.71%of the variance of the Peter Pan Syndrome variable. Item factor load values
vary between 431 and. 759 (See Table 1).
Confirmatory Factor Analysis
To test the model created according to the EFA outcome, the twenty-two-item scale
was applied to the 208 male participants and the CFA was performed on the col-
lected data. Goodness of fit indexes, which are w
, RMSEA, GFI, AGFI, and CFI, are
commonly used (Sumer 2000). Acceptable fit limits values of goodness of fit
indexes (Byrne 2009; Kline 2005; Tabachnick and Fidell 2013), and the results
regarding the proposed model fit in this study are shown in Table 2.
The statistical conformity of the model was tested with w2/sd, and it was found
less than 3 (w2/sd ¼1.26). Also, p value is determined as p ¼0. 01. The acquired p
value between. 0 and 0.05 suggests that the goodness of fit index of the model is in
an acceptable fit limit. As shown in Table 3, the other goodness of fit index values of
the model are RMSEA ¼0.03, GFI ¼0.91, AGC ¼0.86, and CFI ¼0.96. When the
goodness of fit index results are examined, the model is considered to be in a good fit
and acceptable fit limits. The three-factor model for the scale can be confirmed with
the CFA. The three-factor model for Peter Pan Syndrome Scale is given in Figure 2.
Finally, taking into consideration the relevant literature and items included in
factors, the first factor is named as “Escape from Responsibility”, the second factor
is named as “Power Perception,” and the third factor is named as “Never Growing
Child”. The first factor includes eight items, the second factor includes eight items,
Figure 1. Scree Plot
Kalkan et al. 251
and the third factor includes six items. There are no reverse items on the scale. The
lowest score to be obtained from the scale is 22 and the highest score is 110. The
higher the total score taken from the scale indicates that the level of Peter Pan
Syndrome is high.
Table 1. Item Factor Load Values
Item No. 1. Factor 2. Factor 3. Factor
Eigenvalue 6,668 2,127 1,556
Variance 17.81% 15.53% 13.71%
Total Variance: 47.05%
Table 2. Goodness-of-Fit Indexes and Values Regarding the Model
Values of Good
Values of Acceptable
w2/sd w2/SD 33<w2/sd 5 1.26
P0:05 p10:00 p<0:05 0.01
RMSEA RMSEA <. 05 0.05 RMSEA 0.10 0.03
GFI 0:95 GFI 10:90 GFI <0:95 0.91
AGFI 0:90 AGFI 10:85 AGFI <0:90 0.86
CFI 0:97 CFI 10:95 CFI <0:97 0.96
252 Men and Masculinities 24(2)
Item-Total Correlation Values and Subscales Correlation Values
The item-total test correlation values of twenty-two items on the trial scale are given in
Table 3. The fact that the item-total test correlation coefficient is greater than 0.30
indicates that the item is sufficiently discriminatory, that is, the expected property can
be measured with the whole scale (Bu
¨rk et al. 2012). Item-total test correla-
tions in the current study range between 0.303 and 0.650. Thus, it can be said that all
items in the developed scale are sufficient to discriminate the property to be measured.
Pearson correlation coefficients between subscales are given in Table 4. The cor-
relation coefficients in the subscales were found as 0.510, 0.538, and 0.636 (p < 0.01).
Thus, it can be said that there is significant positive correlation between the subscales.
Findings on the Reliability of the Scale
In order to test the reliability of the scale, the Cronbach alpha internal consistency
coefficient and the split-half reliability coefficient have been calculated. Internal
consistency (Cronbach Alpha) coefficient was found as 0.88. The split-half relia-
bility coefficient was found as 0.83 for the first half, and 0.79 for the second half.
Table 3. Item-Total Test Correlations
Kalkan et al. 253
According to these results, it can be said that the reliability of the Peter Pan Syn-
drome Scale is sufficient.
Discussion and Conclusion
The aim of this study was to develop a measurement tool to determine the levels of
Peter Pan Syndrome of male individuals. Peter Pan Syndrome is a concept used to
describe men who have reached an adult age, but cannot face their adult emotions
and responsibilities—“never growing.”
Figure 2. Three-Factor Model for Peter Pan Syndrome Scale
254 Men and Masculinities 24(2)
The Peter Pan Syndrome Scale is a 5-point Likert-type scale consisting of twenty-
two items. In order to determine the construct validity of the scale, EFA was con-
ducted, and the results showed that there are three factors describing 47.05%of the
variance. As a result of the CFA, the goodness of fit index values for the model have
been determined to be in good fit and acceptable fit limits. In other words, the three-
factor model created with EFA is confirmed by the CFA.
The reliability of the Peter Pan Syndrome Scale was calculated by the internal
consistency coefficient and the confidence coefficient of the split-half. The internal
consistency coefficient was found as 0.88 for total scale, and split-half reliability coef-
ficient for the first part was found as 0.83 and for the second half was found as 0.79.
These results show that the reliability of the Peter Pan Syndrome Scale is adequate.
In the Peter Pan Syndrome Scale, there are eight items in the first factor, “Escape
from Responsibility”; eight items in the second factor, “Power Perception”; and six
items in the third factor, “Never Growing Child”. The lowest score to be obtained
from the scale is 22 and the highest score is 110. A high the total score taken from the
scale indicates that the level of Peter Pan Syndrome is high.
The Peter Pan Syndrome Scale was developed on men over eighteen years of age
without the separation of marital status. In future studies, it may be suggested that
Peter Pan Syndrome be examined for men’s marital status, their romantic relation-
ship, whether their parents are together or are separated, and the age they lost their
parents. Considering the effect of Peter Pan Syndrome on the romantic relationships
of men, both in individual psychological counseling and psychotherapies, and in
marriage and double consultation, the scale can be used to evaluate male clients
because of its good psychometric properties.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.
Table 4. Correlations Coefficients between Subscales
Escape from responsibility – 0.510* 0.636*
Power perception – – 0.538*
Never growing child – – –
*p < 0.01
Kalkan et al. 255
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256 Men and Masculinities 24(2)
Melek Kalkan is a professor in the Psychological Counseling and Guidance Department at 19
Mayıs University. Her research interests are mostly related to marriage and family counseling.
Meryem Vural Batık has completed her PhD at 19 Mayıs University. Her research interests
include marriage and family counseling and psychological counseling for families of children
with special needs.
Leyla Kaya is currently a PhD candidate in the Psychological Counseling and Guidance
Department at Hacettepe University. She also provides individual counseling services to
adolescents and adults in a public institution.
Merve Turan is currently a master student in the Psychological Counseling and Guidance
Department at Middle East Technical University. She is also an assistant specialist at Scien-
tific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).
Kalkan et al. 257