Failure to Launch Syndrome

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Failure to Launch Syndrome” is a phrase that describes a young adult who is having an increasingly difficult time maturing and adapting to the responsibilities that come with adulthood. It is not an official medical condition. Instead, the parents of children with failure to launch syndrome may perceive their children to be lazy or unmotivated. However, there are may be several underlying conditions that the young adult could be experiencing which may contribute to the syndrome, such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder or even Depression. These conditions have the ability to hamper the individual’s ability to develop an identity and become independent.

The “launch” medical professionals refer to begins immediately after a person graduates from high school. For the first 18 years of a person’s life, their life has been very structured. They’re told when to wake up, when to go to school, when to show up for class, etc. After high school and the onset of adulthood, the person is responsible for their life’s structure and daily activities. Young men are believed to suffer from failure to launch syndrome much more so than young women.

If you’re a parent, there are several signs and symptoms you can look for to determine if your child is having difficulty adapting to adulthood.

  • Often denies responsibility for their actions.
  • No motivation for activities that pertain to school and full time work.
  • Lack of vision for long term goals.
  • Shows no work ethic towards individual responsibilities.
  • Shows no persistence or consistency in working towards what goals they may have set.
  • Has difficulty keeping the grades to stay in college or can’t hold a steady job.

Unfortunately, many parents will blame themselves if their children don’t turn out as they had envisioned when they were younger. In some cases, parents can unconsciously contribute to their child’s ability to master basic motor skills. Parents that may have showered their children with material items without properly teaching them the value of a tireless work ethic can slow their child’s adaptation to adulthood. Parents that fought to solve their children’s problems or were overly protective of them could also contribute to their child’s failure to launch. Children are not able to develop coping skills and resiliency on their own; these qualities must first be taught by their parents and school teachers.


How is Failure to Launch Syndrome Diagnosed?

The largest indicator of failure to launch syndrome is how long a young adult demonstrates these behaviors. Short stints living at home with parents after high school can be seen as normal and acceptable. However, if they’ve reached the age of 27-30 and still aren’t demonstrating qualities of a fully functioning adult, it may be time to seek help. Individual therapy can be a great asset to help an individual assess their own abilities, process emotion and communicate more effectively. There are also organizational coaches that can help your child establish and conquer short term goals that will give them the confidence needed to move forward with their lives.


Pasadena Villa has successfully helped young adults who exhibit this syndrome for many years.  Our Social Integration Model is uniquely designed to provide constant, real-time coaching in independent living skills, self-reliance, social skills, budgeting, preparation for return to academic or employment settings and cooperative living with peers. We currently offer treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina. To learn more about our mental health treatment programs and levels of care, please call our admissions office at 407-215-2519 or fill out our contact form.





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