International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 130, Issue 2, pp 489–499 | Cite as

Obtaining appropriate interval estimates for age when multiple indicators are used: evaluation of an ad-hoc procedure

  • Steffen Fieuws
  • Guy Willems
  • Sara Larsen-Tangmose
  • Niels Lynnerup
  • Jesper Boldsen
  • Patrick Thevissen
Original Article


When an estimate of age is needed, typically multiple indicators are present as found in skeletal or dental information. There exists a vast literature on approaches to estimate age from such multivariate data. Application of Bayes’ rule has been proposed to overcome drawbacks of classical regression models but becomes less trivial as soon as the number of indicators increases. Each of the age indicators can lead to a different point estimate (“the most plausible value for age”) and a prediction interval (“the range of possible values”). The major challenge in the combination of multiple indicators is not the calculation of a combined point estimate for age but the construction of an appropriate prediction interval. Ignoring the correlation between the age indicators results in intervals being too small. Boldsen et al. (2002) presented an ad-hoc procedure to construct an approximate confidence interval without the need to model the multivariate correlation structure between the indicators. The aim of the present paper is to bring under attention this pragmatic approach and to evaluate its performance in a practical setting. This is all the more needed since recent publications ignore the need for interval estimation. To illustrate and evaluate the method, Köhler et al. (1995) third molar scores are used to estimate the age in a dataset of 3200 male subjects in the juvenile age range.


Forensic dentistry Multiple age indicators Validation procedure 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steffen Fieuws
    • 1
  • Guy Willems
    • 2
  • Sara Larsen-Tangmose
    • 3
  • Niels Lynnerup
    • 3
  • Jesper Boldsen
    • 4
  • Patrick Thevissen
    • 2
  1. 1.Leuven Biostatistics and Statistical Bioinformatics Centre (L-BioStat)LeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Oral Health Sciences, KU Leuven & DentistryUniversity Hospitals LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Forensic MedicineUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Anthropology (ADBOU), Institute of Forensic MedicineUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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