As a single 30-something, I find myself frustrated in dating, because I continually encounter this type of man. Rather than spend time defining a man-child, I want to write a note describing the upbringing these type of men seem to experience.
We know that men who are emotionally immature are typically raised in single-parent homes, or homes where there is a weak father figure. In single parent homes, there are three environments that I've discovered the man-child is usually raised in:
The "Hands-Off" Parenting Style
This is the man who grows up and plays video games all day. A boy like this is usually raised by electronics. He is given video games, his own room with a television and seen as being good because the electronics keep him quiet. He will grow up to become socially awkward and emotionally stagnate, unable to deal well with conflict. He may even be bullied or teased while in the presence of other peers his age, which furthers his attachment to virtual reality. However, this is usually overlooked because boys raised in this environment tend to do well academically, or well with subjects that require them to follow rules or formulas, which has become the typical setting for common core teaching and "zero tolerance" public school classrooms.
The "Make You the Man I Wish Your Father Was" Parenting Style
Whew chile, the dysfunction! Boys growing in this type of environment can be raised in either a single parent or two-parent household. The focus for this type of nurture, though, falls on the mother, who places adult responsibilities on the child at a young age. These responsibilities include-but are certainly not limited-making the boy responsible for the emotional voids that she experiences as a result of unrequited love from the boy's father, or from the string of failed relationships she has with men ,or allowing "the streets" to raise him, especially if this provides her with some sort of benefit. Typically, the mother has issues that she allows to go unresolved within herself. As a result, her son experiences emotional confusion (he is faced with making adult decisions, but is yet a child), as well as emotional stagnation, albeit while growing physically. This is the man who you have a hard time telling anything to, because he learned how to fend for himself by taking on an adult understanding of the world at too young of an age.
The "Boys Are Easier Than Girls" Parenting Style
As a single mother of four boys myself, these damn people get on my nerves! In this parenting environment, the mother tends to be overly-emotional, or tends to rationalize what happens in the world and the decisions that she makes through the filter of her emotions. She in turn teaches this behavior to her son. Oftentimes, the mother in this type of situation has both male and female children and has a tendency to focus on the gender she understands the most, which will be her daughter (who the mother will perceive as being harder to raise because she is in essence dealing with herself), with the overlooked emotional needs of her son fading in and out as his behavior warrants. As a result, this boy looks to fictionalized characters and ideas put into his mind through songs and social media about what it means to be a man. Boys who grow up like this will learn how to become emotional manipulators because they learn that as long as they perform (cause no behavior problems like their sister) they can probably get anything from their mother that they want. This child will grow up lacking in a well-developed character since his mother practically ignores him unless he provokes her emotionally (For example, guilt, shame, crying, etc....).
In situations where the father is in the home, it seems that the father feels the boy is easier because he understands the biological and psychological make-up of the boy, feeling as if he struggles to be more in tune with the emotions and seeming complexity of his daughter. Understandably, I've had men in this situation assume that I have it easy simply because I only have sons. The mother, again, struggles with dealing with herself while raising her daughter, and since the father is present, feels the boy is easier, since the father does the work of understanding the son, while she mostly does what women do best, which is provide loving emotional support when necessary. I do believe that a two-parent household is ideal, but a man-child can still be produced if the father is a man-child himself.
Of course, this is all based solely on my own observations, and can vary depending on the circumstances. What do you think?