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Meeting the Forensic Challenges of Subadult Skeletons

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2022

Investigators confronted with subadult skeletal remains, defined as ranging from birth to approximately age 20, face several limits on what can be determined compared to examinations of adult skeletons. The problem of estimating age is much more challenging with subadults. The key issue is the error rate associated with forensic age estimations. Although a five-year age range is good for adult skeletal remains — determining that a person was between ages 35 and 40 at death, for example — for subadults that five-year range equals a significantly larger relative error rate and loses much of its usefulness. One of the limiting factors in subadult age estimation is that most of the methods being used are based on longitudinal studies that ran from the 1920s to the 1950s. This article details how the National Institute of Justice has supported and continues to fund several projects to better determine sex, age, and other forensic information of subadult skeletal remains.

Date Published: June 1, 2022