Cinderella syndrome

While Cinderella’s fairy tale ultimately has a happy ending, many have questioned whether it sends a good message. Author Colette Dawling drew inspiration from the story to describe what she titled Cinderella syndrome: a situation in which a woman feels more comfortable when she is dependent on her romantic partner and has an unconscious desire to be taken care of. Like Cinderella who was rescued by her Prince Charming, this is the desire for someone to come and take responsibility.

How does Cinderella syndrome manifest? It involves feeling anxious when on one’s own and the desire to find a partner. The woman might tend to avoid being alone and defer to the partner for any choices that are significant. She might favor the role of homemaker to the point where she has difficulties supporting herself, having a job, making important life choices, and being independent in general.

The syndrome appears in women due to the ways in which they are socialized and the higher likelihood for women to be taught dependence rather than independence, as well as the big emphasis placed on romantic relationships and “passive” behavior.

Many women might live in situations that resemble Cinderella syndrome without it actually being a problem, as the choice of being a homemaker is not a problem on its own. It becomes a syndrome when it leads to harmful behaviors and choices and difficulties for the woman, in her daily life.

What can be done about it? Seeking independence and support in other relationships, as well as therapy, can help the woman feel more comfortable beyond traditional roles and make choices for herself.


Demir, M., Kaya, L., Turan, M. & Vural Batik, M. (2021). Cinderella Syndrome “Women with Fear of Independence”: Developing a Scale. International Journal of

Psychology and Educational Studies. 8.

Dowling, Colette. (1981). The Cinderella complex : women’s hidden fear of independence. New York :Summit Books,

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: