At what age should boys enter Kindergarten? This has been a long-standing debate, because educational research has shown that, even at this young age, boys are not as emotionally mature as girls in terms of cognitive brain development. Many support the notion that boys should be held back a year before entering school for this reason.
But does this also carry over to emotional maturity as children move through adolescence and into adulthood? Some research suggests this is the case. A now-famous study by Nickelodeon UK, from 2013, states that the age at which the average man reaches full emotional maturity is 43. This is 11 years later than women who reach this state at about age 32.
So, when do men mature for real? We have a checklist so you can identify the emotional maturity level of the men you meet.
While the Nickelodeon UK study admitted that not all immature men show all of these signs and that mature men (and women) may occasionally exhibit a few of these behaviors, male immaturity shows up in a lot of these. This can serve as a bit of a checklist:
Add to this checklist some other pretty negative qualities of immature men:
Psychologists say that emotionally mature people do have some common traits, meaning both women and men. But while most women mature by their early 30s, emotionally mature transformation comes at a slower rate for men. That’s why we can tell that there are more immature men than women. Even more, unfortunately, some men never emotionally mature. And those who choose emotionally immature men like this are destined for a life of caregiving and anxiety about other people’s perceptions of their partners or spouses.
So, what does an emotionally mature man look like? Here are some general behaviors. But remember: emotional immaturity declines over a period of time, and a fully emotionally mature man will not emerge overnight.
Related reading: A Guide on How to Be a Better Boyfriend
A humble person does not need to brag about how great he is, but an immature man will. To become a better person, the mature man will be eager to learn from others and focus on his own personal growth. You’ll observe him asking questions and listening to what he is told.
He’ll acknowledge his mistakes and try to make corrections or amends. That’s one of the most prominent signs that distinguish a man emotionally mature from immature men.
An immature man is rather “stuck” in his progress to emotional maturity. He is almost still in his adolescent lifestyle of being “footloose and fancy-free,” behaving crazily with his high school and/or college buddies. You’ll spot emotional immaturity in the way he’s looking for a job that will just pay the bills, still living at home with mom or looking for a relationship in which his partner will be another mom.
Instead, the mature man will focus on personal growth – furthering his education, becoming independent and self-sufficient, and looking toward a career not just a job. Now, many men do start this process before that age of 40, even though they can easily exhibit other behaviors that still show less than a full maturity level.
Most men as adults will be able to meet the expectations of their workplace. But a fully mature man will act his age outside of that work environment too.
He will have responsibilities outside of work, even if he is totally single and on his own. There are cooking and cleaning tasks, bills to pay, a budget to set for savings, etc. These are key signs of a mature person and has all the earmarks of self-discipline – the ability to forego an earlier and wilder life of far less maturity. Such a mature man is now taking full responsibility for his life, well-being, and future.
Men who are not mature want to indulge their desires of the moment. And so, they will act impusively. They will take money out of savings to go on a spree with their buddies; they will cancel out on more temperate activities with mature people to go “live it up” with rowdy others.
Immature guys will jeopardize a potentially mature relationship to have a one-night stand who will never have meaning in their life. They will ignore the emotions and feelings of other people to get what they want right now.
In contrast, mature guys have patience. If he’s willing to wait until the time is right to indulge himself, that’s a sure sign you see a matured man in front of you.
At an earlier age, guys may have been willing to get involved in really risky, if not illegal, behavior. But when a man, emotionally mature change means they leave this earlier behavior behind. Adult men are willing to communicate their displeasure with such activities and to decline to be involved.
In contrast to immature men, they set boundaries in a relationship they may be in. When they feel that a relationship is moving too fast, they are willing to talk with their partner about it, communicate their concerns honestly, and be empathetic to that partner’s emotions and feelings.
For a man, emotionally mature transformation is clearly tied to having self-awareness and not pretending to be someone he is not. Unlike immature men, they have values, beliefs, and opinions, and do not compromise them based on situations or circumstances.
Authenticity bleeds into integrity – being honest and consistent in applying their principles in life circumstances and in relationships with others. They assume responsibility for mistakes and pursue solutions to any issues those mistakes may have caused.
“Men are less socially supported when it comes to talking about their feelings. Little boys are given less metaphorical space to explore and share their feelings (i.e., less time to cry, less tolerance of ‘pansy’ feelings, more picked on for being sensitive), and so they grow up not learning *the skill* (it is a skill) for discussing and navigating their feelings.”
Tara Vossenkemper, licensed professional counselor
While research shows that men are just as emotional as women, relationship experts tell us that they are socialized into hiding those emotions, from childhood through the age of adulthood. They will often show women their feelings of love via body language, especially in the present of others.
Through the age of adolescence, and even before, guys who showed their emotions were thought to be mentally weak – it was just not cool, even when in a romantic relationship. This does not mean they do not show feelings and actions of love toward their partners, but in the company of other guys, they cannot. If you have ever seen the Grease movie, you’ll see how this works.
But as guys mature, they understand that being emotional is not a sign of weakness, but, instead, a sign of honesty and openness. Being able to talk about love with women and express emotions during those conversations is one of the key signs of maturity. Better yet, when men feel comfortable expressing their love and feelings for women to other men, maturity has reached a solid level.
At the same time, the ability to control emotions is also a sign of maturity, especially in highly charged situations. If men can act with restraint, especially when they have reached adult age, they are seen as more mature.
Another sign of maturity is to show respect and consideration to people whose values, opinions, and beliefs differ. At a young age, boys will get into physical fights over disagreements. When they reach an “age of reason,” they tend to have more verbal than physical fights; although men have been known to have physical altercations at any age, especially if they are immature.
Mature men will listen to those who drastically disagree and still show respect and consideration for their perspectives. They will not engage in loud and threatening speech but take a more temperate approach to disagreements. Most women who have matured at an earlier age, use this approach as well.
As long as they do not compromise “non-negotiables,” maturity can involve being open to new experiences, ideas, and unusual activities. Immaturity can be reflected as being very “closed” to new things.
And being flexible means that, especially in relationships, a mature guy will be open to changes in plans without grousing about them.
As mature adults, men or women, we expect to receive constructive criticism in the form of performance reviews at work or even from someone we love. Thus, a mature guy will form criticism of others in constructive ways – no judgements, no name-calling, or other negative comments that are personal attacks.
Life comes with its fair share of problems and crises. These put people into a “fight or flight” positions. Now “fight” does not mean a literal fight. It means staying and working through the problem to reach resolution. The immature man will walk or run away, unable to have the difficult conversations and make the compromises that may be required.
Emotional maturation happens in stages and in spurts. It’s a complex process, so a man may develop maturity in some areas while not in others. We are all products of our upbringing and experiences, and they are all unique.
Consider this scenario:
A 50-year-old man grew up in a household with an immature man for a father – a man who lived for the moment, had very little regard for his wife and kids, and spent most of his free time gambling, drinking, and doing whatever he wanted to fill his momentary wants. The father of this man never grew up, and his mother had to assume all parental roles. In addition, she was a massive enabler – making sure that all the family needs were met: clothes were clean, meals were ready, and his father was the “king” when he was home.
What chance does this 50-year-old man have to become emotionally mature? Certainly, his male role model was not going to help.
But suppose during his growing years, this man had an uncle, a teacher, a coach, or some other male adult who was fully mature and took this kid under his wing throughout his young life. The kid now has a good chance of developing emotional maturity as he ages. But what are the chances he changed all his emotionally immature behavior? Depends on him only.
In addition to this scenario, maturation can happen as kids go through adolescence and into adulthood surrounded by peers who are maturing at a rather normal level and pace. These peers can have a great impact and help a kid with no adult role models to imitate.
So, maturity is based upon experiences, upbringing, other people, and sometimes just a drive to be better and more than those around him. That happens too, and a guy develops maturity in spite of his growing-up environment. And when that happens? The generational cycle of immaturity is broken – hoorah.
The Nickelodeon UK study remains the definitive one regarding the age difference between gender maturity and the characteristics of emotionally immature men. This age difference for maturation makes one wonder how healthy relationships between the two sexes can happen. Even if both men and women agreed that she is more mature than he, then she will have to take the reigns to help her partner mature. It gives “equality of the sexes” a whole new meaning.
Related reading: Relationship Advice for Women That Will Help Your Love Life