Age Estimation of Living Individuals

Determining age in case of living humans

Age is among the important features to establish the identity of an individual. It is usually based on the principles of forensic anthropology. Age estimation of the deceased is common practice in forensic medicine. But there are certain circumstances where the age of a living individual may form the basis of legal investigation.

Methods of Estimating Age

The methods of age estimation in living individuals are quite similar as well as different from the age estimation from the deceased. The following methods are involved for estimating age in living:

Dental Development

Dental developments estimate an almost accurate age of an individual. In human beings, the dentition is of two types- temporary and permanent. Temporary dentition consists of 20 teeth (4 incisors, 2 canines and 4 molars in each jaw) and generally begins at about six months and is completed by about two and half years.

Permanent detention consists of 32 teeth (4 incisors, 2 canines, 4 premolars and 6 molars in each jaw) and begins at the age of 6-7 years which continues till the age of 12 years. The time of eruption of teeth gives the indication of age upto 18-25 years but depends on various factors (diet, geographic area, etc.).

Presence of one wisdom tooth indicates that the person has passed the age of 17 years, two wisdom teeth resemble the age of 19 years whereas three and four wisdom teeth indicate the ages of 21 and 22 years respectively. X-ray examination of wisdom teeth reveals calcification of roots- its absence indicates the age below 25 years and its presence indicates the age above 25 years.

Ossification of bones

In human skeleton bones develop through ossification centres from where the ossification starts and continues till full bone is developed. The radiological examination of the bones can reveal these centres which can estimate the approximate age of the individual. Usually the ossification starts from the birth and continues till the age of 25 years. Again ossification of bones vary according to geographic areas, diet, heredity, etc.

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Secondary Sexual Characteristics

Secondary sexual characteristics (breasts development, presence of pubic hair, laryngeal prominence in males, etc.) act as the preliminary assessment for age estimation. In females development of breasts begin at the age of 13 years. Fine downy hair appears on mons veneris and then becomes thick and dark at the age of 14 years. Menstruation also starts at this age.

Whereas in males fine downy hair begins to appear in pubis at the age of 14 years, on the axilla by about 15 years and on the chin and upper lip between 16 and 18 years. The voice becomes deeper and Adam’s Apple becomes prominent by about 16 to 18 years.

Changes Due to Old Age

Retrogressive changes like wrinkles on the face start appearing at the age of 40 years. Arcus senilis also starts appearing from this age and is seldom complete before 60 years. As age advances the scalp hair becomes less dense in males and in females loss of axillary hair occurs. 

Prospects of Age Estimation in living Individuals

  • Judicial PunishmentIn India, according to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, juvenile offenders, i.e., the children (boys below 16 years of age and girls below 18 years of age) who have committed a crime/offence, are tried in the juvenile courts. These cases are tried by women magistrates. The juvenile offenders on conviction are sent to rehabilitation/Correctional centres, which facilitates them with education and vocational training. No juvenile in conflict with law shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, or committed to prison.
  • MarriageAccording to Child Marriage Restraint (Amendement) Act (Act XLI of 1949), a girl under age of 18 years and a boy under age of 21 years cannot contract marriage.
  • RapeSection 375 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that sexual intercourse by a man with a girl under the age of 15 years, even if she is his wife or any other girl under the age of 16 years, even with her consent, constitutes the offence of rape.
  • InfanticideA charge of infanticide is applicable only if it is proved that the foetus had attained the age of viability, that is seven months of intrauterine life.
  • Criminal ResponsibilityUnder section 82 IPC, a child under age of 7 years is incapable of committing an offence.
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Under Section 83 IPC, a child above 7 years and under 12 years of age is presumed to be capable of committing an offence, if he has obtained sufficient maturity to understand and judge the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.

Under Section 87 IPC, a person under 18 years of age cannot give valid consent, whether expressed or implied, to suffer any harm which may result from an act not intended or not known to cause death or grievous hurt.

Under Section 89 IPC, a child under 12 years of age cannot give valid consent to suffer any harm which can occur from an act done in faith and for its benefit, e.g. a consent for an operation.

  • Attainment of MajorityIn India, a person attains majority on completion of 18 years, but when the person is under the guardianship of court or court of Wards, when the individual attains majority on completion of 21 years, according to Indian Majority Act (Act IX of 1875) .
  • EmploymentAccording to The Factories Act 1984 (Act LXIII of 1948), a child below the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any factory or mine or any hazardous industry. A child on completion of 15 years age is allowed to work as an adult on a certificate of fitness granted by a certifying surgeon.
  • Criminal Abortion If a woman passes the child-bearing age, she is not charged with criminal abortion.
  • Impotence & SterilityBefore puberty a boy is considered sterile but not impotent. A woman is considered sterile after menopause.
  • Competency as Witness- According to section 118 of Indian Evidence Act, every person is competent to testify provided he is capable of understanding the questions put to him in the court. There is no age limit for this purpose.
  • Kidnapping- Following sections of IPC considers kidnapping as an offence-
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Section 369– To kidnap or abduct a child under the age of 10 years. 

Section 361– To kidnap a minor from unlawful guardianship if the boy is under 16 years of age and the girl is under 18 years.

Section 366A– To procure a girl for illicit intercourse or to sell or buy a girl for purpose of prostitution, if her age is under 18 years.

Section 366B– To import into India from foreign country, a girl for illicit intercourse, if her age is less than 21 years.

Conclusion

Forensic examination usually considers the analysis of the dead, but there are certain circumstances where analysis of live individuals is also required. Age is one of the crucial factors in determining the identity of an individual. In living individuals age estimation is done by analysis of dental developments, secondary sexual characteristics, ossification of bones and old age changes.

Although various methods are employed in age estimation but they reveal approximate age only, therefore more methods should be developed for accurate age estimation.

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