What constitutes Infantilization?

Updated on January 26th, 2022

Infantilizing a person is not showing love to such a person. It could be the opposite, and no individual should be subjected to such behavior. As such, we will be showing you the risks involved with infantilization, the causes, dangers, and other things that you need to take note of.

What constitutes Infantilization

What is Infantilization?

Infantilization means treating an adult as though such an adult is a child, even though nothing necessitates such. Infantilization is typically seen in parent-to-child relationships, romantic relationships, and occasionally in a fluid work setting. Infantilizing a person is an act that can lead to future psychological trauma, a level of distrust, and difficulty in returning to the status quo. Hence, infantilizing is not love, and it is sometimes used by controlling partners to get the upper hand in a relationship. It could be subtle, systematic, passive, or active, but the crux is that you can spot it from a mile away.

Infantilization could turn out to be detrimental to the person’s self-esteem and confidence. The reason is that such a person would feel small, detached, let down, and inferior compared to their peers. It isn’t a good look to see an adult or teenager treated like a toddler, which has no positives. Infantilization can come from different people, take various forms, and continue occurring for several years. So here, we will be running you through the red flags, causes, effects, underlying reasons, and a cause for action.

Red Flags for Infantilization

Just like we stated earlier, infantilization could arise from different sources. Such sources include but are not limited to parents, partners, and superiors at work. If you suspect a person of infantilizing, here are some red flags to pay extra attention to.

1. Constant Contact

There is nothing wrong with occasionally contacting and checking up on an individual. That is just a sign of caring, being friendly, and wanting to be there for the said individual. However, such contact could take a different meaning when it becomes imposing, excessive, and complicated to get rid of. Constant communication is a tool used by infantilizing persons to keep tabs on their “ward,” which is one of the most used weapons in their arsenal.

In a romantic relationship, such constant contact could occur when one partner happens to leave another’s side for a few days. In a parent and child relationship, such constant contact could occur when the child tries to move away from under their parent’s roof. However, in all cases of continual contact, you can categorize as infantilization, as some a genuine with no hidden agendas.

2. Frequent downplaying of someone’s accomplishments

Accomplishments are meant to be celebrated with the people you love the most. Such people are typically family members, romantic partners, and a couple of friends in your inner circle. But what happens when a perceived member of your close-knit group is sort of dismissive about the said accomplishments? Well, that person could either be a killjoy, or the person might be exhibiting traits of infantilizing. Infantilizing is not even remotely cool, and it hurts extra because it is coming from someone you expect better from.

Such downplaying of a person’s thoughts or accomplishments is a tool frequently used by infantilizing individuals. That is a way to maintain a sense of control and discard the things that might lead to independence. Sometimes it is borne out of the fear of losing the person to the world more than anything else. Just like we stated earlier, infantilization is not love, and a proper family member or romantic partner should let their ward spread their tentacles.

3. Excessive Neediness

Neediness is not cute, being clingy is not healthy, and doing both is bound to get on the receiver’s nerves sooner or later. Being needy is a sign of infantilization, as here, an individual perpetuates themselves on another person seemingly against all forms of reason. It is a sign of infantilization, as a needy person would not want to share their receiver with the rest of the world. Neediness is one of the more toxic signs of infantilization, as it comes from the “it’s either you or me” school of thought.

The worst part is that if you give a needy person an inch, such an individual is bound to extend the coffers to a mile. Before you know it, infantilization would occur, and it would be much too late to detach from such a person. So once more, there’s nothing cute about being excessively needy, and you should call it out before it escalates.

Rationale behind Infantilization

Here are some situations where infantilization occurs and the rationale behind it.

1. In Parent-child Situations

A person’s first relationship is between them and their parent(s). That is because it is from a mother that a person comes into this world. As such, a parent is tasked with caring for the child for the next couple of years. That is a pivotal period in both parties’ lives, as it could either make or mar their relationship. Make or scar in the sense that it could lead to infantilization if certain boundaries are not respected.

First things first, a parent has to understand that the older a child gets, the more independence that such a child would desire. That need for freedom is not out of ingratitude for the work the parent has put in. But instead, as a result of changing conditions. Furthermore, no one remains a child forever, and the sooner a person grows up, the better it is for all parties.

The infantilization of a child, unfortunately, starts super early, and it can continue during adulthood. This form of infantilization would likely affect the ward’s romantic relationships, job opportunities, choices of schools, and much more. The worst part is that such a person might find it difficult to escape the clutches of infantilization because that respect for a parent would always remain. What’s more, the older a person becomes, the more displeased such a person would be about infantilization.

2. In Romantic Relationships and Friendships

Infantilization occurs in romantic relationships, and it could be more crippling than even in parent-child situations. The reason is that people are intensely loyal to their significant others, especially when they are either married or heading in that direction. So when a partner proceeds to infantilize their significant other, it might be harder to break the trend.

It is mainly used as a tool to maintain a certain level of control. It is also a means of ensuring that the person doesn’t have the self-esteem, confidence, or strength to leave an otherwise detrimental union. Infantilization can make a loving relationship precariously toxic, choking, and rather unpleasant.

Infantilization in friendships, on the other hand, isn’t too different from infantilization in romantic relationships. That is because some people see close friends as family members, which is a fertile ground for mischief. So-called friends do this to manipulate their friends from taking control of the narrative and making better decisions for themselves. Doing this would shatter the tenets of a true friendship, such as trust, respect, and love.

Dangers of Infantilization

Here are a set of detrimental results to the scourge of infantilization—further reason why you should nip it in the bud before escalation.

1. Loss of Confidence

Confidence is one of the main things that gets an individual going, and the loss of trust is typically associated with a person fading into obscurity. Constant infantilizing can play a significant role in the loss of confidence, as it finds ways of making the affected party feel very low. This loss of confidence happens due to constant bickering, frequent comparisons, and a stifling of independence.

You can spot a person lacking confidence from a mile away, and often such people have a history of infantilization.

2. Inability to Commit

The inability to commit is a limiting factor in professional growth, educational improvement, and financial independence. Infantilizing a person would be doing a great disservice to attaining all of the above and a lot more. Lacking the ability to commit would instantly block a person’s pathway to many opportunities, and such would be quite a shame.

Unfortunately, the people guilty of infantilization do not think about it that way, as they are more concerned with placing the affected party under their thumb. Doing this can cripple a person financially, emotionally, and psychologically.

3. Self-doubt

Doubting oneself is a negative trait that limits the opportunities an individual would have to be elevated. The reason is that your most fervent supporter should be you, not your parents, not your partner, but you! However, constant infantilization would make such doubts creep in, and it could escalate pretty quickly. Infantilization would make such a person seek approval from everyone except themselves, and such is a recipe for disaster.

Self-doubt is the opposite of confidence, and without faith, a person’s potential would be significantly limited. Infantilization plays a significant part in self-doubt, as an affected person would always doubt if they are enough or otherwise. However, with the right therapy and friendships, it could be a thing of the past.

It is worth noting that while not everyone who has been infantilized experiences all of these issues. It is essential to recognize the potential influence of these factors and why you should pay close attention to them.

Final Thoughts

Infantilization isn’t something you should do to someone you love, as it is likely to affect the person in the long run negatively. There is no positive to infantilizing an individual, but there are a ton of negatives that come with the act. It is all fun and games until the person detests the guilty party’s existence and has to go for therapy. As such, if you spot infantilization of any sort, make sure you call it out and take the necessary steps to put an end to the act before it gets out of hand.

Sophia is a mental health and wellness expert with a background in psychology and over 8 years of experience in content writing. She focuses on learning and writing about the skills people need to heal, cultivate happiness, and restore joy in their lives.

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