Failure to Launch Syndrome in Young Adults
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Failure to Launch Syndrome in Young Adults

Failure to Launch Syndrome in Young Adults

Failure to launch syndrome can be both heartbreaking and frustrating for a parent. Watching your child struggle to make the transition to becoming an independent adult might have you feeling somewhat helpless over what to do. You might even wonder if you are somehow responsible for your child's lack or inability for growth.

While your actions could contribute to their failure to launch syndrome, many other influencing factors do not relate to you as a parent. Determining the underlying cause will help both you and your child start building and sustaining a life of their own. Let's take a closer look at what failure to launch syndrome is, how to identify the signs, and when to act to get help.


Failure to launch syndrome is not a proper diagnosis but rather a conceptual term to describe a young adult struggling to transition into adulthood. Examples of failure to launch syndrome could include the inability to leave home, pursue school, or find work. Many young adults struggling with failure to launch syndrome often appear stuck or not maturing appropriately. Many young adults find rites of passage into adulthood, such as getting a driver's license or turning 18, both enabling and encouraging.

However, for young adults that are struggling, these changes can create regressive behaviors. Some young adults might graduate college only to find comfort in returning home indefinitely.


Sometimes young adults need extra encouragement and support during their transition into adulthood. A stint at home with parents is okay and does not mean that all young adults living with their parents are struggling with failure to launch. Failure to launch occurs after a long duration of dependency from the young adult without notable progress or motivation to seek an independent lifestyle. Failure to launch syndrome often has the following symptoms:

  • Poor work ethic
  • Low distress tolerance
  • Low motivation and persistence
  • High expectations of others without reciprocating
  • Failure to take responsibility
  • Lack of vision or direction

A young adult struggling with a failure to launch typically shows signs of low self-esteem and poor emotional regulation. Most young adults display symptoms of a failure to launch after high-school graduation or after obtaining a bachelor's degree.


You want the best for your child; this means watching them evolve into an independent adult. However, some of your habits could be negatively influencing your child. Among the top contributors responsible for young adults failing to launch is enabling. Suppose you have been overprotective in creating an environment where you handle many of your child's challenges appropriate to different growth stages. When this happens, they then miss out on opportunities to develop confidence.

Being a well-meaning parent to help make your child's life easier, in turn, removes challenging situations for them to encounter. A relationship formed under these circumstances can create an unhealthy attachment and dependency on the child's part. However, understand that while this might play a role in your child's failure to launch, it is not always the sole contributor, nor is it the case for all young adults.


Substance use can have a severe effect on failure to launch. Young adults struggling with a substance use disorder are more likely to experience diminished financial, cognitive and emotional stability. It is not only substance use that contributes to their failure to launch; other forms of addiction such as screen addiction can also diminish a young adult's social and coping skills. These additional distractions make it harder for young adults to get on their feet.

Additionally, the increased anxiety and emotional duress from addiction can further diminish a young adult's pursuit of education, career, personal health, and social activities. Leaving the safety of home can be a crippling thought for a child struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD, or who has experienced trauma. As much as they desire to be independent, substance use or mental health disorder might prevent them from taking the chance to leave home.


Failure to launch syndrome varies among young adults and can even be intimidating when trying to help. However, there are strategies that you can use to help your child navigate their transition into adulthood. First off, hold to boundaries. If your child insists on living at home, it is okay to require that they contribute to household responsibilities. They can start by pursuing education, doing chores around the house, finding work, and paying rent. These boundaries allow for your child to take some responsibility for facing the everyday parts of growing up.

If their inability to launch is deeper than just being bummed that high school is over and is instead related to a mental health or substance use disorder, consider therapy. Therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness can help your child find the underlying cause of their struggles. When they attend therapy, maintain encouragement because any frustration on your part will only make them feel worse. Implement boundaries and structure to instill balance and trust between you and your child. Make this a learning experience for both you and your child by working together to reach personal and professional growth goals.

Encouraging and motivating your child to take the steps needed to grow into adulthood can be an intimidating venture. You might not even know where to start or how to even go about it. At START UP RECOVERY, we will work with you and your child to help you achieve your greatest potential. We believe in helping you each build healthy relationships with yourselves and others. A network built upon trust, motivation, and encouragement offers you the best growth opportunities. If you are currently struggling to help your child overcome the challenges of early adulthood, or are a young adult yourself in need of direction, then the time to reach out is now. We provide a sunny SoCal location that consists of professional staff looking forward to meeting you and helping you find the inspiration you need to manifest your greatest dreams. To learn more, reach out to START UP RECOVERY today by calling us at 310-773-3809.

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