“Immaturity stands out as ‘Number One’ troublemaker in bringing about mental, emotional and social ills.” This is the conclusion reached in an important study made nearly twenty years ago. A personality disorder with such far-reaching effects demands close examination, and any system that holds out hope of preventing or alleviating so mischievous a condition also deserves a hearing.

When we think of immaturity we think of children. They are deficient in knowledge and in judgment. They are easily frightened and may respond with emotion to a very slight stimulus. We do not blame children for being immature; we recognize this as a stage of development. Trouble-making immaturity is that found in older persons who in some respect have not given up childish behavior.

Immaturity is basically a defect of development. Personality undergoes growth, just as muscles and bones do. Immaturity of personality may be compared to the deformity that results from childhood paralysis. When a group of muscles is paralyzed, a limb may fail to grow as the rest of the body grows, resulting in deformity or disproportion. When some aspect of personality fails to undergo normal development, the defect that results may hinder interpersonal relationships as muscular atrophy hampers body movements. If such a defect persists into adult life, it is classified in psychiatry as a personality disorder.

To find the causes of immaturity, therefore, we must examine the developmental period. The long period in human life between birth and adulthood is the time when gradual transition from babyhood to full-grown responsibility should be accomplished. To understand immaturity, we need to know what occurs to hinder this transition. By starting with some common forms ...

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