Failure to Launch Syndrome Affects Thousands of Young Adults Across the United States today.


While not a true diagnostic category, the popular phrase “Failure to Launch Syndrome” describes a young adult who seems to be “stuck,” not “moving forward” or “maturing” in a way that seems appropriate for his/her age and expectations as well as the expectations of parents and loved ones.

Maybe he/she is trying to move from a structured world to a less structured one: from high school to college, for instance. This situation can promote tremendous growth OR tremendous regression especially if the young adult has difficulty with organizational or independent living skills.

Maybe they are dealing with a complex challenge or diagnoses such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Learning Disabilities, ADD/ADHD or any other of a multitude of issues that contribute to the inability to satisfactorily develop the type of identity needed to persevere and be independent.

Perhaps the young adult never internalized a sense of self confidence based on their own, lived experiences where they overcame challenges, faced complex social encounters, dealt with the anxiety of sharing a passion in music or art or revealed some vulnerability to the world and felt all right about it.

Whatever the reason, they are overwhelmed. They need greater support.

How OPI Can Help

For all OPI Living Programs, we begin helping young adults who might be associated with a Failure to Launch Syndrome diagnoses in this way:

  • Thoroughly learn about and understanding this individual, his/her family and their world and then…
  • Address all issues at hand utilizing a multi-focal treatment approach including:
    • Psychological/psychiatric components;
    • Psychological/educational components where tutoring, study hours or neuro-psycho-educational testing may be scheduled;
    • Psycho/social components in which participants engage in individual life coaching or guided social activities ranging from Tai Chi, creative art projects to open mic nights;
    • Opportunities to express, experience and share a joyous part of themselves.

All our OPI Living Programs provide a nurturing environment that focuses on helping young adults achieve some level of success, even if it’s as simple as “I got through a conversation with my parents, and we were able to hear each other, disagree and come to a compromise!”

The growth that results may start externally. But, it quickly moves internally as the young adult begins to understand the process of persevering and succeeding.

Our experienced clinical team and personnel, dedicated Departments of Educational Services, Career and Volunteer Services, Extracurricular Activities, and Life Coaching along with our OPI Living facility location in Southern California make it possible for us to find opportunities these young adults can truly get excited about so they can begin to expand their horizons. This excitement is essential because it enables them to share a joyous part of themselves, which, when reflected back, helps create hope for the future.

What is “Failure to Launch”?

“Failure to launch” syndrome is an unofficial name for a common problem seen among young adults. In short, it can be defined as the inability, either from desire or lack of preparation, to leave home and begin a journey toward self-supported life.

For young adults, the premise of taking full responsibility for the future can be daunting and even debilitating. While certain rites of passage, like college and a first full-time job, are enabling and encouraging for most young adults, these changes can cause regressive behavior in some. The transition into self-sufficient adulthood isn’t easy for everyone and it appears to be especially difficult for young men.

What Does It Look Like?

Where do you draw the line between a young adult who needs a little bit of extra support during an especially trying time and someone who is simply failing to launch? Some of the following signs might be red flags for a current or future failure to launch:

  • Low tolerance for distress
  • Low levels of motivation
  • Low levels of persistence
  • Failure to take responsibility when appropriate
  • Low work ethic
  • Narcissism
  • High expectations of others without reciprocating
  • Lack of vision for the future or long-term goals
  • Lack of skills needed for adulthood, like basic cooking and cleaning skills

What Are Some Of The Root Causes?

The root causes of “failure to launch” syndrome are what everyone wants to know about. Parents are eager to figure out if they did something wrong along the way that might have resulted in the failure to launch of the young adults they currently are hosting at home. In some cases, the parents might be partly responsible for this stagnation. In other cases, they might not be responsible for it at all.

The economy is undeniably weak right now, at least generally speaking, and unemployment high. Job opportunities are in no way plentiful, and some young adults find themselves in a good position out of sheer luck or nepotism. But it’s not just that the job market is tough right now – it goes beyond that. Many young adults who currently live at home with parents went to college and pursued degrees. Some of these young adults received their degrees too. But many of the degrees today’s young adults were encouraged to pursue are not the types of degrees that are creating sought-after job candidates in the current economy.

Many arts degrees, for instance, need to be backed by a brain for business – especially marketing – if they are to be put to good use these days. Other fields require that candidates be constantly on the edge of industry developments in order for them to retain their eligibility.

Meanwhile, today’s young adults have grown up with the Internet and a consequential yearning for instant gratification unlike any other generation. The instant gratification provided by modern media might have a negative effect on some young adults, yielding less ambitious drive and persistence for goals that cannot be quickly achieved. There are outside factors that most certainly play a role in the “failure to launch” epidemic.

Parental factors also factor into the increasing number of “failure to launch” cases. Parents who were overprotective of their children should expect that their children might have difficulty accessing their own autonomy if they were not taught to do so from a young age. There are treatment programs and centers that can help to reboot young adults for some of these issues, but longer-term therapy may be necessary for some of the deeper issues.

How To Diagnose “Failure To Launch” Syndrome

One of the biggest indicators of “failure to launch” syndrome is the duration of behavior. While a brief stint at home can be perfectly normal, a longer dependent stay without notable positive progress can be a sign of a larger issue. In order to properly diagnose “failure to launch” syndrome, young adults should seek treatment through verified programs. A licensed social worker or psychiatrist can provide valuable insight to the situation and whether or not “failure to launch” syndrome has taken place. Optimum Performance Institute is (OPI) is accredited by the national Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations because of the quality of our care and programs.

Learn more information about Failure to Launch including its connection to a variety of mental health diagnoses on our blog.

Learn More about Failure to Launch Treatment

For more information on OPI’s residential and outpatient programs and our measures to help young adults Failure to Launch issues, call us at 866-661-3982 or click below to submit an online form. We’ll be in touch promptly.

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