Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Do the Gifted Turn to Crime?

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Rita Culross, Ph.D.

Q: I've read somewhere in the past that ridiculously high percentages of inmates in our prison system have high IQ's. Do you have any information with regard to these statistics?

A: According to Marylou Kelly Streznewski in her book Gifted Grown Ups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, gifted people may make up as much as 20 percent of the prison population. Given that estimates of giftedness in the population range from 3 to 5 percent, her data suggests that the gifted are overrepresented in the prison population. The majority of inmates are young males, often from lower socioeconomic groups. (It is also true that their crime victims share those demographics.)

The more important questions relate to why the gifted become involved in crime. Although a certain level of intelligence is required for some crimes (e.g., computer hackers), it seems counterintuitive that bright people with potential would choose a life of crime. Some researchers have theorized that gifted individuals who turn to crime lack a well-developed sense of morality. They lack control over their own behavior or are not guided by a strong sense of right and wrong. The gifted criminal may consider crime a challenge: Can I do this and not get caught? Other researchers point to biological factors or inconsistent parenting as the origins of criminal behavior. A person who does not fit in or who feels isolated may commit crimes as a way to be accepted (e.g., in a gang).

As the tragic events of 9/11 have shown us, bright individuals can engage in evil acts.

More on: Expert Advice

Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

8 Products to Help Your Family Go Plastic-Free
How can you minimize your family's exposure to harmful chemicals and lessen your impact on the environment? Try swapping out some of your everyday plastic products with these non-plastic alternatives.

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks