What You Need to Know About Gifted Teens

Gifted teens produce all sorts of reactions from those around them. On the one hand, there may inspire admiration, envy and surprise. However, in their social and academic environments, they may also experience a great deal of pressure and rejection.
What You Need to Know About Gifted Teens

Last update: 22 June, 2019

Gifted teens possess special qualities including exceptional intellectual aptitudes and talents. This superior intelligence has a heavy impact on their emotional and social development.

Adolescence isn’t an easy time for gifted individuals. The anxiety and difficulties they experience may often be greater than those that others experience.

They feel different, and others treat them as such. The expectations placed on them are extremely high. They live under a huge amount of pressure and their reactions can affect their lives.

What does it mean for a child or teen to be gifted?

According to some lines of thought, IQ (intelligence quotient) is what defines whether or not a child is gifted. According to these theories, if a person has an IQ of over 130, then he or she is a gifted individual.

New theories about intelligence and the concept of multiple intelligences have led to diverse positions on the issue. While a person’s IQ is a useful indicator, a person’s intelligence involves much more than their IQ.

The most modern understandings characterize gifted people as those with “high intellectual capacities.” This concept is much broader and more inclusive. It defines giftedness as the existence of an exceptional potential to be developed.

Based on this idea, the indicators that define gifted children and adolescents have to do with more than their IQ. They also include creativity, learning style, evolutionary development and other characteristics about a person .  

Gifted teens are precocious in their learning and interaction with their environment. They possess an extraordinary memory, concentrate easily and acquire learning early on.

What You Need to Know About Gifted Teens

How do gifted teens live?

These are some of the most typical characteristics of gifted youth:

  • Generally, their giftedness becomes apparent during early infancy. Parents and teachers notice that a child has high capacities from the earliest stages of development. 
  • Gifted individuals often feel isolated and misunderstood by others. This is a source of concern for their parents. They often look for more suitable schools and professional advice to fulfill their parenting role as well as possible.
  • When gifted individuals reach adolescence, life often becomes more complicated. Gifted teens are, first and foremost, teens. They still experience the need to be like others and fit in, all while meeting the demands of their exceptional nature.
  • Exceptionally gifted children become reflexive beyond their years and have their own options about social values and morals. They have an abundant amount of knowledge and manifest it naturally. But this makes them stand out, and they are often met with rejection.
  • Just like any other teenager, gifted adolescents try to affirm their personalities – discover themselves.
  • Gifted adolescents are concerned about their physical appearances and do whatever they can to look like others. They feel a need to belong to a group of peers, but have a hard time doing so. They know they’re different, they feel the rejection of others, and life can become quite unhappy.

Possible reactions of gifted teens

Adolescence can cause gifted teens to experience a lack of self-confidence. There are times when they feel like they belong to the world of adults and prefer to spend time with their elders.

At other times, typical teenage angst takes over. In those moments, they experience a desire to be part of the adolescent world. This is true even though they have a hard time making friends.

“The most modern understandings characterize gifted people as those with ‘high intellectual capacities.’”

Sometimes, these youth spend a good time navigating between one world and another. Then, they may decide on one of the two. At this moment, the reactions of gifted teens tend to be one of the following:


There are gifted teens who rebel against everything, something that happens with typical teens as well. It’s their way of showing the world that they’re not like everyone else. Their rebelliousness may even bring them to abandon their studies.

This is a reaction that repeats itself frequently and can produce certain risks. In their desire to rebel against authority and challenge the expectations of their elders, these teens may fall into drugs or alcohol.

What You Need to Know About Gifted Teens


Some teens choose the opposite extreme, meaning they cut themselves off. They dedicate themselves exclusively to their studies, isolating themselves with their books or computer. They have no social life – they don’t go out with friends or receive visits. 

This behavior is worrisome. Adolescence is an especially important moment in a person’s life in learning to live in society.

Parents’ support, dialogue and attention are fundamental during this time period. Sharing activities with their children is the first step.

If parents notice any problems, it’s best they reach out to a professional to look for guidance on how to proceed.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Barragán, M. C. (2009). Identificación del alumnado con altas capacidades intelectuales. Revista Digital Innovación y Experiencias Educativas25, 1-15.
  • Gálvez, J. M. (2000). Alumnos precoces, superdotados y de altas capacidades. Ministerio de Educación.
  • Sánchez, C. (2006). Principales modelos de superdotación y talentos. Universidad de Murcia, Departamento de Métodos de Investigación y Diagnóstico en Educación, España.
  • Sastre-Riba, S. (2008). Niños con altas capacidades y su funcionamiento cognitivo diferencial. Rev Neurol, 41(Supl 1), S11-6. http://www.carei.es/archivos_materiales/AACC.pdf
  • Tourón, J. & Reyero, M. (2001). La identificación de alumnos de alta capacidad. Bordón, 54 (2), 311-338.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.