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What Is Entitled Dependence Syndrome? 4 Tips for Overcoming It

It is a fact that the number of adults living with their parents is increasing worldwide. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the number of grown children living with their parents increased from 2.4 million in 1999 to 3.5 million in 2019, an increase of 46%.

Some of this is due to economic hardship. Many adult children, for example, cannot afford to live independently. Other reasons include marrying later and saving money to reach a financial goal (such as buying a house).

But some adults still living with their parents have entitled dependence syndrome, not wanting to live independently, despite being capable of it. 

In the sections below, we will look at the behaviors exhibited by adults with entitled dependence syndrome, what causes it, and what happens when it goes unchecked.

We will also look at which interventions and therapies are available to help these low-functioning people become contributing members of society.

What Is Entitled Dependence Syndrome?

A person with entitled dependence syndrome is over-reliant on others, despite being capable of helping themselves with the things they expect others to do for them. They feel entitled and superior to others, often having unfair expectations of friends, family, and even strangers.

Adults with entitled dependence syndrome are overly dependent on their parents. They are often unwilling to work despite being able to and expect their parents to care for their financial needs.

Sometimes this also extends to physical needs such as laundry and cooking.  

People with adult entitled dependence syndrome, also sometimes referred to as failure to launch syndrome, can display the following behaviors:

  • They are not interested in becoming independent, functioning adults.
  • They rarely help with any chores in the house. 
  • They have unrealistic and unfair expectations of their parents, other family members, friends, and strangers. 
  • They tend to be self-centered, thinking only of their needs and wants. 
  • They often have no empathy for others and can be very inconsiderate.
  • They react poorly, often with aggression, when they do not get what they want and cannot deal with life’s disappointments healthily. 
  • They use manipulation, control, aggression, and threats to get what they want.
  • They often sleep during the day and are awake all night. 
  • They tend to isolate themselves from the world, and even from family members, by staying in their bedrooms, often playing video games or doing something else to escape reality.

They often lack the confidence to deal with life independently and prefer the convenience and comfort of living at home and being taken care of. There are various causes of entitled dependence syndrome, and we will look at them in the next section.

A woman with entitled dependence syndrome sits on a couch smoking a cigarette and playing video games
What is entitled dependence syndrome?

What Causes Entitled Dependence Syndrome?

According to experts, the following parenting styles can lead a child to become an entitled adult:

Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter parenting is characterized by parents who are overly involved in their children’s social and academic lives.

The child cannot accomplish anything independently since the helicopter parent doesn’t allow them to figure things out alone. As a result, the child gets used to the parent doing everything for them and becomes entitled and overly dependent on their parents. 

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting is characterized by parents who aren’t very involved in their children’s lives. They set virtually no rules or expectations of their children.

Since children can do what they want with no consequence or accountability, they grow up to be entitled.

Indulgent Parenting

Indulgent parenting is similar to permissive parenting in that parents are not very involved in their children’s lives. With indulgent parenting, the parent additionally gives the child whatever they want. They rarely say no. 

Certain mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression, are also associated with entitled dependence syndrome.

Another cause could be fear of loneliness, and having their parents take care of them may make them feel protected from becoming lonely.

Related: What Does A Trauma Bond With A Narcissist Look Like?

If you’re interested in exploring the topic of raising children so they do not become entitled adults, this video has some great nuggets:

What Happens If Entitled Dependence Syndrome Goes Unchecked?

Unchecked entitled dependence syndrome can have long-term detrimental effects on both parents and entitled adult children.

According to Julie Exline, a professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve University, entitlement can lead to chronic unhappiness, distress, constant disappointment, and troubled interpersonal relationships. 

Professor Exline explains that entitlement leads to a detrimental cycle, which consists of the following stages:

  • Stage 1: Entitlement puts a person at risk of constantly not having their expectations met.
  • Stage 2: Not having their expectations met causes the entitled person to feel disappointed and angry, resulting in emotional distress.
  • Stage 3: To remedy the emotional distress, the entitled person reassures themselves that they are superior to others. They deserve special treatment. This reassurance creates unfair expectations that put the entitled person at risk of not having these expectations met, thus starting the cycle over again.

Although you may be able to care for your child now, there will come a day when you will not be there anymore. If your child has not learned to be an independent, functioning member of society, they will suffer greatly.

It is in your child’s best interest to stop enabling them and intervene so they can get on the right track.

Even if your child is an adult, there is still time to help them. There are intervention methods and therapies that are successful in treating the syndrome.

What Can Parents of Entitled Adult Children Do?

If your adult child is struggling with entitlement and dependence, there are things you can do to help your child be more independent.

1. Set clear boundaries and expectations:

Your child needs to know what is and is not acceptable regarding their behavior and responsibilities.

Make it clear that they are expected to take on more adult responsibilities and be clear about what will happen if they don’t.

And then be prepared to follow through. Your adult child will try to test this boundary to see if you’re serious.

How this looks in practice:

A parent of an entitled adult child can say something like: “I love you, but you have to take on more responsibilities in our house. You need to get a job working at least 20 hours per week, do your own laundry, and keep your room clean. If you can’t do that, we will no longer help you financially.”

If they refuse and/or push back, make good on your promise to withhold financial support from them.

2. Encourage and support their efforts:

If your child starts taking steps towards independence, praise them! Positive reinforcement as your adult child navigates this new territory.

Offer support and assistance, but avoid doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves.

3. Help them develop life skills:

Many adults with entitlement and dependence issues lack important life skills like budgeting, cooking, and cleaning. Not for a lack of ability, mind you. They just refused to learn it, and now they’re stuck in your house.

Help your child learn these skills by teaching them or by providing opportunities for them to practice.

Will they be receptive students? Maybe not, but if you connect this support to the boundaries you’ve set, it will start to come together for both of you.

4. Encourage them to seek counseling (and you, too):

If your child’s entitled behavior has rendered them unable to “adult,” it may be helpful for them to see a mental health professional.

Of course, therapy doesn’t always work if the participant is unwilling to change or work on their problems, but you can try.

A therapist can help them work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to their entitlement and dependence and can provide additional support and guidance.

You’ll also need counseling to work through the unhealthy dynamics of this relationship and how you can set healthier boundaries moving forward.

Overall, the key is to strike a balance between providing support and guidance while also challenging your child to take on more responsibility and become more independent.

With time and patience, you can help your child overcome their dependent behavior and transition into a more independent and fulfilling adult life.

What Interventions Are Used In Entitled Dependence Syndrome?

Non-violent resistance is an intervention method by which parents resist their children’s attempts to be entitled in a non-violent way.

Some steps include the parent formally announcing to the child that they will no longer accept this behavior and getting support from other family members and friends.

A study conducted by psychologists Dan Dolberger, Eli Lebowitz, Efi Nortov, and Haim Omer with 27 families yielded the following results with non-violent resistance:

Before Non-Violent ResistanceAfter Non-Violent Resistance
Living with parents2015
Not working2315
Working part-time38
Working full-time14
Parent cooking for child144
Parent doing child’s laundry155
Parent giving the child money2211
Efficacy of Non-Violent Resistance Therapy for Entitled Dependence Syndrome

The results also indicated that the entitled adult children were less violent, left the house more, and socialized more. If you want to try this intervention, it would be good to seek assistance from a trained professional who can help you formulate a strategy and provide you with training.

In addition to non-violent resistance, you can also consider individual therapy for your child, as well as family therapy. It will be an excellent way for your child to work through the root cause of their entitled dependence syndrome and for you to heal the damage the syndrome has caused to your relationship.

You don’t have to figure this out on your own.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a qualified therapist who gets you, try BetterHelp. Get 10% off your first month when you click the link below.

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