Current State of Sex Estimation in Forensic Anthropology

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Alexandra R. Klales


Sex estimation is perhaps the most important component of the biological profile. Our sex estimates aid in decedent identification by helping to narrow the missing persons list, and set the basis for many of the remaining biological profile estimates (age, ancestry, stature), which factor in sexual differences. A review of the current research and general literature reveals the use of a wide variety of methodological approaches to sex estimation, which are far from standardized. The goals of this work are (1) reviewing the current state of sex estimation, based on practitioner preferences, case studies, research publications, and proposed standards; (2) presenting and discussing opposing viewpoints regarding issues such as the lack of agreement on terminology standards; whether sex should be estimated at all in subadults; different analytical and data collection approaches; and whether it is appropriate to directly apply sex-specific methods if sex has been positively established, or if keeping a blind approach is still necessary in that case, in order to prevent observer biases; (3) discussing current challenges and future applications; and (4) summarizing the review with a set of recommendations and suggestions for future practice.

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