Learning to recognize a failure to launch is the first step toward a solution—and yes, there is a solution. There is always hope and an actionable plan that can help you recognize the problem and deal with it at its source. Here’s how you can recognize  failure to launch, and what you can do to help solve it in a healthy and productive way. 

Five Signs of Failure to Launch:

1. Procrastination 

Many people assume laziness or a lack of willpower is to blame when someone hasn’t reached a stage of independence. Be careful not to confuse procrastination as a character trait instead of a symptom. It can be a symptom of deeply rooted behaviors, anxiety, fear, and depression. 

2. A lack of ambition

A lack of ambition is a common sign associated with a failure to launch. Moving towards independence from a situation of dependence requires you to want more for yourself so that you can realize those desires with determination and hard work.

3. Cannot take responsibility 

You may notice your child struggling to take responsibility for their decisions and consequences, blaming everything on situational factors, other people, or even just bad luck. To be independent, you need to develop a sense of responsibility for yourself and others. 

4. Addiction and substance abuse

Addiction and failures to launch often go hand in hand. Substance abuse can delay development both physically and emotionally, and a failure to launch is a delay in development. Seeing it in this light, instead of a failure, can help you better understand the cause and how you can best move forward.

5. No direction or aspiration towards future goals

There are situations when dependence may not indicate a failure to launch. The difference is when your child doesn’t have a plan to work towards achieving independence. Starting a dialogue with your son or daughter is an excellent way to learn more about what their plans are, and if they have a plan.

What You Can Do

No one can begin to understand the stress and pain a failure to launch has caused you and your family. Therapy is the best solution for dealing with it effectively and with the least emotional cost. It’s a solution that doesn’t just focus on the individual who hasn’t gained independence—it’s an involved process that deals with the entire family dynamic. 

The work I do with clients provides the language to understand the situation and move forward in a productive way. It’s common for parents in this situation to argue when trying to start a conversation about seeking independence. However, this rarely yields change and leaves all involved more frustrated. Without a constructive way to communicate, you won’t have the ability to give your son or daughter the skills they need to move forward.

When you recognize the problems, isolate the areas that need change, and communicate your good intentions in a way that isn’t seen as patronizing, you can instill your child with hope and give them the confidence to achieve independence and thrive.

Learn more about how I work with families to uncover the real roots of issues and build a positive, supporting environment for the transition to adulthood. Change starts with a simple conversation. 


  • Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP

    Writer, Speaker, Clinician, Interventionist

    Dr. Louise Stanger founded All About Interventions because she is passionate about helping families whose loved ones experience substance abuse, mental health, process addictions and chronic pain. She is committed to showing up for her clients and facilitating lasting change so families are free from sleepless, worrisome nights. Additionally, she speaks about these topics all around the country, trains staff at many treatment centers, and develops original family programs. In 2018, Louise became the recipient of the Peggy Albrecht Friendly House Excellence in Service Award. She most recently received the Interventionist of the Year Award from DB Resources in London and McLean Hospital - an affiliate of Harvard University, in 2019. To learn more, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDf5262P7I8 and visit her website at allaboutinterventions.com.