International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 467–471

Inaccuracy of age assessment from images of postpubescent subjects in cases of alleged child pornography

Original Article

Abstract

Despite frequent medical expert testimony authoritatively stating that images of individuals who are postpubescent indicate age less than 18 and therefore, child pornography, developmental experts have noted that a scientific basis for such estimation is lacking. In fact, recent studies have demonstrated a high degree of inaccuracy in such estimates, and that the stage of breast development often used as indicative of age under 18 years is present in a substantial percentage of adult women. Ten images of adult women from legitimate pornographic sites promoting youthful images were shown to 16 pediatric endocrinologists expert in evaluating maturation, who determined whether or not the individuals represented were under 18 years of age. They also provided information about what features were most important in their evaluations. Sixty-nine percent of the 160 estimates were that the images represented females under 18 years of age. There was wide variability in the designation of importance of the various features of maturation in reaching conclusions, with breast development and facial appearance considered most important. This study confirms that medical testimony, even by experts in adolescent development, can deem images of adult women selected for their youthful appearance to be under age 18 two thirds of the time. Thus, important as prosecuting users of child pornographic material may be, justice requires the avoidance of testimony that is not scientifically based,

Keywords

Child pornography Tanner stage Medical expert testimony Sexual maturation Forensic anthropology 

References

  1. 1.
    United States of America v. Robert W Parker; In the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas-Houston division; Cr. No. N-96-72Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brook CGD, Stanhope R (1989) Normal puberty: physical characteristics. In: Brook CGD (ed) Clinical paediatric endocrinology, 2nd edn. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford, pp 169–188Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rosenbloom AL, Rohrs HJ, Haller MJ, Malasanos TH (2012) Tanner stage 4 breast development in adults: forensic implications. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3122
  4. 4.
    United States of America v. Lonnie A Young & Stephen Carruthers. In the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia-MaconGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rosenbloom AL, Tanner JM (1998) Misuse of the Tanner puberty stages to estimate chronologic age. Pediatrics 102:1494CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kreston SS (2005) Prosecutorial issues in the child pornography arena. In: Cooper SW, Estes RJ, Giardino AP, Kellogg NB, Vieth VI (eds) Medical, legal, & social science aspects of child sexual exploitation, vol 2. GW Medical Publishing Inc, St. Louis, pp 662–663Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cooper SW (2005) The medical expert and child sexual exploitation. In: Cooper SW, Estes RJ, Giardino AP, Kellogg NB, Vieth VI (eds) Medical, legal, & social science aspects of child sexual exploitation, vol 2. GW Medical Publishing Inc, St. Louis, p 830Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cattaneo C, Ritz-Timme S, Gabriel P, Gibelli D, Giudici E, Poppa P, Nohrden D, Assmann S, Schmitt R, Grandi M (2009) The difficult issue of age assessment on pedo-pornographic material. Forensic Sci Int 183:e21–e24CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rosenbloom AL (1999) Tanner staging and pornography. Pediatrics 104:996–997Google Scholar
  10. 10.
  11. 11.
  12. 12.
    United States vs Ted H Grauer. Report of January 21, 2011Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    State of Iowa vs Arthur Pixler. Deposition of October 29, 2001Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    State of Illinois vs Robert Kelly. Report of June 24, 2005Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Court-martial of SSgt Swearingen, San Diego California, February 2012Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Endocrinology, Department of PediatricsUniversity of Florida College of Medicine, Children’s Medical Services CenterGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations