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Adult Entitled Dependence Syndrome

You might have heard of the term "Failure To Launch", and don't worry if you haven't, it's got a certain amount of stigma and shame attached to it, which makes it hard for some people to talk about it.


More recently, we are referring to it as Adult Entitled Dependence (AED), which is slightly less shaming, although I'm not convinced the term has caught on in broader conversations in society either. This means that this family pattern of dysfunction is not talked about or widely known, even in the therapeutic community.


The pattern is very hard to distinguish so it does take someone with lots of experience working with families to identify and target. It usually always involves young adult children who are still reliant on their primary caregivers long after the ages of 18 or 21. I would argue, however that signs of this phenomenon are present at younger ages.


Adult Entitled Dependence Syndrome in this context isn't necessarily about finances or emotional support, it's an all-round reliance that is out of proportion to their skill levels, education and abilities. Parents will often remark that they just don't understand why Jimmy won't get a job, or why Jenny won't move out. Jimmy and Jenny are perfectly capable of living independently yet they just won't make the leap into being an adult, preferring to remain emotionally and functionally safe living at home still.


Identifying AED can be challenging, as its symptoms often mirror or intertwine with other behavioral or psychological issues. However, there are some common behaviors that signal its presence:

  1. Behavioral Patterns: Common behaviors observed in individuals with AED include school dropout, work avoidance, and a reliance on parental services, both financial and otherwise. These individuals often resist parental attempts to change the situation, or repeatedly drop out of school / quit jobs.

  2. Educational and Professional Stagnation: One of the most noticeable signs is an aversion to academic or professional progression. This may manifest as repeated school dropouts, a lack of consistent employment, or an avoidance of any meaningful career development.

  3. Financial Dependence: Demands for money and other forms of financial support are common. Unlike temporary assistance during emergencies, this is a consistent pattern where the adult child relies on their parents for basic financial sustenance.

  4. Service Expectations: Beyond financial dependence, these individuals often expect a range of services from their parents. This might include chores, errands, and other forms of personal assistance that are typically not expected in an adult-parent relationship.

  5. Disrupted Routines: A notable sign is the inversion of the night/day cycle – staying awake through the night and sleeping during the day. This behavior often indicates a disconnection from the typical societal rhythms and responsibilities.

Recognizing these signs is the first step in addressing AED and you might already be able to see that this is not just about the refusal or inability to 'grow up'. It's a much more complex interplay of familial, societal, and individual factors.


Below are some other examples of AED behaviors, this is not a diagnostic criteria, no is it an exhaustive list, this is just a few examples I've curated. AED might still be present if you only relate to one or two of these behaviors.

  • Refusal to fulfill household responsibilities

  • Regularly locking the door to their room.

  • Refusing to allow others access to their room.

  • Being awake all night and asleep all day (or thereabouts)

  • Rarely leaving the house

  • Not having any means of transportation, relying on caregivers or friends.

  • Taking over public space in the shared household.

  • Dictating rules to other household members.

  • Eating meals without the family.

  • Having outbursts of rage,

  • using violence, threatening others,

  • stealing, and refusing to comply with requests.

If this sounds familiar to you, please book a consultation call with me if you're located in California. Or ask your therapist if they know how to work with AED or can tell you more about it. I do think this is quite a specialized issue, so if you're looking a therapist to help, don't be afraid to ask them a lot of questions about it.




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