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“Failure to Launch” Syndrome In Teens

Failure to launch syndrome is also known as failure to thrive. It occurs as a result of a teenager transitioning into adulthood.

teen with failure to launch syndromeWhile the transition into adulthood is inevitable, not every teenager experiences failure to launch syndrome. Teenagers who do experience this may simultaneously be struggling with low self-esteem and/ or a lack or inability to adequately self regulate. There are a number of factors that are at play when a teen struggles with failure to launch syndrome. Some factors that may contribute to its development include possible mental illness, environmental factors, parenting style, as well as many other possible influencing factors. 

It is imperative to keep in mind that every teenager develops at his or her own pace. Do not immediately jump to the conclusion that there is something wrong with your teen if he or she exhibits some of the signs or symptoms associated with failure to launch syndrome. Furthermore, if he or she does struggle with failure to launch syndrome, there are a myriad of supportive tools and professionals available to help. Navigating the years of adolescence can be difficult for both a teenager as well as his or her parents. If there is even a thought that outside assistance may benefit the teenager and/ or the way a parent supports his or her teenager through this time, there is no harm in obtaining additional help. 

Signs of Failure to Launch Syndrome

Every teenager is different, but there are several signs for which to be on the lookout when it comes to failure to launch syndrome. Some of them include, but are not limited to any combination of the following examples:

  • Lack of forward thinking
  • Narcissism
  • Unmotivated
  • Poor work ethic
  • Does not assume responsibility
  • Is not persistent 
  • Uses poor judgment when decision making
  • Impatient 
  • Excessively needy 
  • Disinterested in skills needed for adulthood

Adolescence is a difficult time in a young person’s life. To a certain extent, many teenagers may exhibit some of the above examples and quite possibly may not be experiencing failure to launch syndrome, but rather the norms associated with maturing into adulthood. 

How To Help

Maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for teenagers. While the pressures in all areas of an adolescent’s life can be overwhelming, it is imperative have age appropriate expectations and stick to them. Pre-adolescents typically thrive with structured schedules, and the same can be true for adolescents. Provide your teen with situations that enable him or her to take responsibility for his or her actions. Part of maturing and becoming an adult is learning to understand and face consequences. 

Encourage your child to express his or her fears and emotions. While this may result in an initial increase in failure to launch behaviors, when implementing loving and strong boundaries, it can ultimately help them to move forward. Another helpful tip is to work with your child to uncover a healthy balance between staying busy and having downtime. Integrating this skill at a young age will behoove your child in the long run as it is a skill that can be frequently and unfortunately neglected in adulthood.

An important lesson that can be introduced during one’s adolescence stage is that of knowing when to ask for help. There are a plethora of resources available to any person that may benefit from assistance. When a young person’s failure to launch symptoms are persistent for an extended period of time and greatly affecting his or her ability to function in daily life it may be time to pursue outside support. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at

Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. 


Arnett JJ. Emerging adulthood: a theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. Am Psychol. 2000;55:469–480. 

Lebowitz, Eli R. “Family Impairment Associated With Childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry vol. 56,3 (2017): 187-188. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2017.01.002

Thompson-Hollands J, Kerns CE, Pincus DB, Comer JS. Parental accommodation of child anxiety and related symptoms: range, impact, and correlates. J Anxiety Disord. 2014;28:765–773.

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