Estimating a child’s age from an image using whole body proportions

Teghan Lucas, Maciej Henneberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The use and distribution of child pornography is an increasing problem. Forensic anthropologists are often asked to estimate a child’s age from a photograph. Previous studies have attempted to estimate the age of children from photographs using ratios of the face. Here, we propose to include body measurement ratios into age estimates. A total of 1603 boys and 1833 girls aged 5–16 years were measured over a 10-year period. They are ‘Cape Coloured’ children from South Africa. Their age was regressed on ratios derived from anthropometric measurements of the head as well as the body. Multiple regression equations including four ratios for each sex (head height to shoulder and hip width, knee width, leg length and trunk length) have a standard error of 1.6–1.7 years. The error is of the same order as variation of differences between biological and chronological ages of the children. Thus, the error cannot be minimised any further as it is a direct reflection of a naturally occurring phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1390
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Child pornography
  • Age estimation
  • Photographs
  • Anthropometry
  • Forensic anthropology


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