Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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As a result of my annoyance at the common, and incompatible-with-observation, claim by women that women would be more mature than men, I wrote the lion’s part of this page dealing with various aspects of maturity, how women tend to miscomprehend it, and how the odd view that women would be more mature could be explained.

As time went by, however, a few more specific categories of problems crystallized themselves. These are contained in the section immediately below. The original contents form the rest of the document.

The fundamental misunderstandings of maturity

So far, I have seen three main categories of fundamental misunderstandings of maturity that are common among (in particular) women:

  1. Confusing immaturity with being childlike, while the true problem is being childish. This is at the core of the original text and was made explicit through an earlier addendum. (Cf. below.)

  2. Confusing maturity with “behaving like I want him to behave” (“wanting what I want”, or similar).

    Indeed, as an earlier version of the main text stated:

    The discussion on women and losers applies to many other phrasings than “loser”—including “immature” and “needs to grow up”. If anything a man does contrary to a woman’s wishes is (usually incorrectly) labeled as “immaturity”, then women will obviously find many examples of immaturity in men...

  3. Confusing a wish for commitment, marriage, children, whatnot, with maturity.

    From another document (cf. also below):

    Women tend to take the view that the wish for long-term commitment, family, etc. is a sign of maturity. There is no rational foundation for this; on the contrary, it can be argued that such wishes over a long-term period (excepting the express wish to leave off-spring) is a sign of lacking maturity. The early and intense female wish for the above is less rational and mature than the typical male “have fun for now, and get a family in due time”. Some excuse for the female preference can be made in light of their smaller fertility window and earlier loss of attractiveness; however, it must not follow that men automatically should share this preference.

Note that there is some overlap between the three cases.

Women claim to be more mature, but are not

A claim women like to repeat is that they are more mature than men (when comparing at a fixed age). This claim goes against what I have seen in real life, thousands of threads I have read in forums, what can be read between the lines of almost all relationship literature I have studied, and the majority of all fictional depictions.

In particular: When I consider the women I have known sufficiently well to judge in this regard, I find that the vast majority in the range early twenties to early thirties have been depressingly immature. To take an unscientific stab at a quantification, they may trail men of the same age by 10–20 % of that age. My contacts with women above their early thirties have been much more limited; however, the general tendency seems to be the same.

Among the problems I see: A lack in rationality and objectivity; a failure to reflect upon themselves; an unwillingness to consider others stand-points; a constant judging of books by their covers, instead of the actual contents; a lack of intellectual development (though often hidden behind an intellectual surface); often (in my impression) a tendency to consider people who disagree to be hostile or even amoral (instead of just factually wrong); over-sensitivity and lack of self-control; ...

Without a doubt, I also consider the maturity of most men disappointing (and, by all means, I do not claim perfection for myself); but women are worse, often much worse. Without a doubt, many men also confuse inner and outer maturity; but almost all women I have ever known fail in this regard. Without a doubt, there are also many men who are teenagers in adult bodies; but the corresponding number of women is so much larger.

The core point of the below discussion is: Women act in a manner that they associate with maturity e.g. by dressing like an adult, keeping a neat apartment, abstaining from activities that they associate with people younger than themselves, ...; but fail to display a true inner maturity.

As Professor Higgins laments:

Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside [their head]?

Exaggerated as this view may be, it does catch the problem spot on.

What women claim make them more mature

When I hear women discussing why they would be more mature than their men, it usually boils down to superficialities, e.g. “he still dresses like a teenager” or “he still plays computer games”. True signs of maturity are seldom mentioned. Consider e.g.:

  1. How does (s)he handle criticism?

  2. A fight?

  3. How willing is (s)he to consider an opposing POV?

  4. To what degree has (s)he understood that the superficial only matters to superficial people?

  5. If (s)he were to lose his/her job today, how would (s)he handle it?

  6. Would (s)he make a major decision (like getting married) based on a reasonable estimate of the outcomes (“It would be fool-hardy to get married before we both have completed our degrees and have paying jobs.”) or on feelings (“We love each other! We are meant to be forever!”)?

  7. How prone is (s)he to fall for the cheap tricks of a commercial?

  8. Does (s)he respect the boundaries of other people?

  9. Does (s)he communicate effectively, efficiently, and openly, or does (s)he rely on hinting and the hope that the counter-part is a mind-reader?

  10. Will (s)he try to keep a conflict between the involved parties, hoping for a mutual, low-friction solution; or will (s)he complain about the other party to anyone who lends an ear?


A few months after writing this text, I ran across the following Oprah quote, which is quite telling as to what criteria women use:

If there had been no Phil Donahue show, there would be no Oprah Winfrey show[...] He was the first to acknowledge that women are interested in more than masscara tips and cake recipes—that we’re intelligent, we’re concerned about the world around us, and we want the best possible lives for ourselves.

(Tabloid_talk_showw, retrieved on 2009-05-18, original text in the September 2002 issue of “O, The Oprah Magazine”.)

In effect, that women are intelligent (and so on) is demonstrated by Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey... I will give women the benefit of the doubt and, despite the contents of this page, assume that at least some of them have their respective sights set higher than that.

Another telling example from an early twenties woman:

[...] SO EXCITED! I know, I never thought I would turn into an adult. I’m all excited about a new couch. Six years ago I would not have given a shit. It used to be the most exciting purchase was books or music. Now its furniture and home decor. [...]


Being excited over a couch (not to mention using formulations like “SO EXCITED!”) is not a sign of being an adult, but of the teenage girl within. Prioritizing furniture (if it is actually needed) over an unneeded book is a sign of maturity; being excited over furniture is not. Seeing that the quoted diarist gave me the impression of buying things that she did not need, with money she barely had, I additionally have some serious doubts about how adult the buy, per se, was. (Obviously, this impression could be false.) Finally, the true utility of a good book can be vastly greater than that of any couch; the same, to a lesser degree, applies to music. A couch is just something to sit upon—a book can make a true difference by giving new insights and perspectives, providing hope or entertainment, by teaching valuable lessons, ...

In as far as non-superficialities are mentioned, typical male behaviors and opinions are often classified as immaturity in a blanket manner, without reflection on the fact that men have different priorities and that the male view is often the more rational. A typical case is labeling a man who prefers a sex-and-fun based relationship as immature, and the woman looking for a deep and committed relationship as mature—yet, this merely reflects different priorities, not maturity. (In particular, it overlooks that men have a much smaller physical urgency to start a family; and can easily afford to have five or ten years more of fun than a woman, before they settle down.) In fact, it is common that men start out with a naive “want to get married” attitude in their late teens to early twenties—and grow less interested as they mature, understand better how relationships and women work, see the problems men have after divorces, etc. (This was certainly the case with me: While I had no urge to get married in college, even an average co-ed would likely have been successful, had she attempted to “Sadie Hawkins” me.)

An interesting case in pointe: A woman spends a long newspaper article complaining about men having grown less inclined to commit, and, without for a moment considering the true explanation, goes of on a “boys are stupid” rant. Consider statements like

[...] I knew him ten years ago when he was mustard keen to marry his then girlfriend. And when I thought harder about it, I realised that over the past decade Jamie has effectively been degenerating from the man he was at 25 years old to the boy he is today.


There is another option [for solving her problem of not finding the right man], of course. And that is that the whole generation of single man-boys start behaving like men.

To take a specific example from my own life: I have over the years switched to almost exclusively using disposable plastic forks and spoons instead of metal implements. This saves me time and effort, and is very practical—I would recommend anyone to try it. Yet, what was the reaction of a girl I briefly dated last year? “Du bist doch kein Kind mehr.” (Roughly, “You’re not a child anymore.”, but with a strong implication that I was displaying a child’s behavior; “Grow up!” might hit the intent better.) This was followed by the suggestion that I buy more “adult” implements. (Note that I never had her over to my place, so her comment was exclusive concerning my private use.) The very same girl sulked through an entire evening after I let slip that I did not like her new hair-cut... That is women and maturity.

Addendum on childlike and childish behaviour

Having reflected on the issue on later occasions, I suspect that much of the above can be summarized by contrasting childlike and childish behaviours and attitudes: To be childlike (e.g. by enjoying comics) does not automatically imply that one is childish (e.g. manifested in a stunted moral development or lack of self-insight). Conversely, there is no need for someone who is childish to also be childlike. Now, if a woman is not able to see the importance of the distinction, or only is aware of the (often) more obvious manifestations of the childlike, then she may well equal “maturity” with “having ceased to be childlike”—while a far better translation would be “having ceased to be childish”.

Such a mistake would go far in explaining both why so many women have so odd views on maturity and why those (of either sex) who consider themselves mature so often are not.

Cleaning and similar tasks

A specific claim that I have repeatedly heard is that some men expect their girlfriends to clean for them—typically followed by a complaint along the lines of “He’s like a child expecting me to mother him.” or “These are things that he should have learned to do for himself years ago.”.

While these claims are not entirely incorrect (unlike a few others), they do miss the point: Chances are that the man has learned to do the discussed tasks years ago, but that he does not see a point in doing them as long as a woman volunteers. Similarly, if a man has kept this attitude over a prolonged time after leaving his actual mother, then chances are that sufficiently many women have volunteered.

If we further consider that most men naturally tend to clean up, do dishes, and similar, when they actually need to (as opposed to when the hamper and the closet are both half-full), it is likely that many of these cases fall back on a woman doing something today that the man would have done himself in a few days time.


Speaking for myself, I even find people who clean too often to be annoying: Vacuuming thrice, even “just” twice, a week, brings very little benefit, but costs time, disturbs other people in the apartment, and is generally a nuisance. To me, and many other men, the amount of “cleanliness” and “orderliness” that some women apply falls in the category of unhealthy compulsion—certainly not maturity.

Women and older men

Another twist is that some women claim that they prefer to date older men because the maturity levels would be more even: When they are more specific, it usually turns out that the alleged maturity lies in knowing “how to treat a lady” (which is not related to maturity, but may relate to being old-fashioned, having more money, being willing to make greater sacrifices for a younger woman—or simply being better at manipulating women...) or how to behave smoothly in a restaurant (again, not related to maturity, but to experience). Occasionally, references are made to older men being more likely to be interested in discussions on e.g. art or history, or their being more knowledgeable. Well: Firstly, knowledge (while very valuable) is not the same thing as maturity. Secondly, having an interest in art is not in itself a sign of maturity; it would possibly be more accurate to say that the older man has had the time to broaden his horizons to include more interests than a younger man’s—or a younger woman’s! Unless she, herself, is able to cover the interests of the young men, in addition to her own, a bit more humility would be in order. Thirdly, in my own limited experience, what younger women mean when they speak of “discussing [some topic]” is that they want the man to talk to, not with, them about it—or that they, themselves, want to launch into a monologue of superficialities. Fourthly, the interest of young women in such topics is often a superficial pretense (as remarked above). In effect, the whole “equal maturity level” idea typically just exists in the woman’s mind—large individual variations notwithstanding.

(Note that statements like “I prefer older men, because they are more mature and intellectually stimulating than younger men” are in order; the above claim that she, herself, would be superior to the younger men is a very different matter—the exact opposite of what my own observations and experiences imply.)

In the end, who is truly less mature: The thirty-year old man who deliberately burps after a beer—or the thirty-year old woman who is so insecure and obsessed with her weight that she does not even dare to drink that beer?

Explanations for the underlying misconception

The largest single factor is certainly a mixture of women “believing what they want to believe” and lacking an understanding of what true maturity is. Other possible contributors:

  1. Women could actually be more mature than their male counter-parts until their late teens. Because women reach their physiological maturity earlier, it is conceivable that this early peaking can out-weigh the overall tendency for higher male maturity in a comparatively large window. (That it does so for at least a few years of late childhood and early teens, is almost certain.) If so, the impression of greater maturity could last longer than the underlying reality.


    Notably, when comparing individuals from different species, there is a strong correlation between slower, but prolonged, development and high development. Chimpanzees, e.g., develop faster than humans, but cease to develop much earlier.

    Correspondingly, women should be very careful to throw around the (true) statement that girls mature faster: They also cease to mature (physiologically) earlier, and it would be entirely unsurprising if they land at a lower ultimate level—which, obviously, is what my observations indicate.

  2. Many women develop their “mature surface” at a very young age, often even in their early teens, seldom later than their early twenties. Many men, largely unrelated to their “true maturity”, go through a similar development five to ten years later (typically to have the right image in the work-place, to comply with their girl-friends “improvement projects”, or to impress gullible younger women...). As follows from the above, this would cause many women to believe that the men were only then catching up in maturity—when they, quite possibly, already were ahead.

  3. The Dunning-Kruger effectw could be a significant factor. (Indeed, even among men, those who claim maturity are often the less mature.)

  4. Portrayals of men and women in fiction can play a considerable part. I note, in particular, that women are typically presented as more intelligent, competent, and mature, than they are in real-life; whereas the opposite is often the case with men. Typically, the men are still ahead, but it is common that they look worse on superficial shows, e.g. sitcoms, because the outer differences are very obvious, but the inner seldom are brought to attention: We see the well-dressed woman who acts like a mother and the sloppy man who drinks beer in front of the TV every five minutes—the deeper states do not even surface once per episode on some sitcoms.


    The regular visitor has likely noticed that I occasionally draw inferences from fiction myself—and I contend that much can be learned in this manner. However, it is important go about it in the right way: Above we have unconscious forming and strengthening of stereotypes, which should be fought and resisted. In contrast, noting and analyzing situations, becoming aware of certain behaviours in certain groups and then testing them in the real world, trying to find out what personal experiences or theoretical insights the script-writers have used, mentally putting oneself in a situation that has so far not occurred in ones own life, etc.—that brings a benefit.

  5. A sizable part of the basis for a woman’s opinion on the topic is the men she has been involved romantically/sexually with (ranging from one-night-stands to marriages). It is likely that a greater proportion of these men will be unintelligent, immature, and/or uneducated than in the overall population, as can be seen by considering the “nice guys vs. jerks” theme in pick-up theory. Other similar effects can also be in place, e.g. in that (at least younger) women have a very strong preference for well-trained men, while spending time in the library does less for muscular development that spending time in the gym, etc. Effectively, conclusions would be drawn based on a skewed sample.


    Could I be a victim of a similar effect in my estimation of women?

    Unlikely: This could explain some of my private experiences, because there does seem to be a negative correlation between how “easy” women are, and their maturity and intellectual development. However, I reach the same conclusions when I look at my experiences with female colleagues with post-graduate educations and co-eds of several universities, as well as my readings of forums and online diaries. (Notably, it seems reasonable to assume that the typical forum poster is more literate, and probably more intelligent and better educated, than the average member of his/her sex.)

    In contrast, one source of potential bias for me is that I have a larger exposure to people of higher-than-average intelligence than most people do—and men become increasingly over-represented as intelligence deviates from the average. Because I catch one end of the spectrum to a higher degree than the other, it is conceivable that my experiences exaggerate the differences somewhat. Similarly, in software development (my field), the proportion of women is unusually small, which implies that the women encountered are more likely to hold less qualified positions (cleaning women, receptionists, and to some degree HR personnel and project managers) than the men encountered.

  6. It is often the case (ironically) that immature behaviour (e.g. jokes that are silly, but not funny; or exaggerated “alpha” behaviour) goes over very well with women. It is conceivable that at least some men behave in a manner that understates their true maturity when together with women, to take advantage of this phenomenon. Notably, some women similarly adapt more “girlish” behaviours in order to attract men. (An interesting conjectured difference is that the male behaviour plays on the immaturity and impressionability of women, whereas that the female behaviour is an attempt to seem more youthful.)


    However, a few male colleagues that I have encountered since writing the above have made me fear that I was unduly optimistic were men are concerned: While all above thirty, they often displayed a down-right juvenile sense of humor of exactly the silly-not-funny type.