International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 467–471 | Cite as

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

  • Arlan L Rosenbloom
Original Article


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,


Child pornography Tanner stage Medical expert testimony Sexual maturation Forensic anthropology 



I thank Professor Cristina Cattaneo of the Laboratorio di Antropologia e Odontologia Forense, Istituto di Medicina Legale, Universita degli Studi di Milano, for supplying the images used in this study and their validation data.


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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

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