Use of ordinal categorical variables in skeletal assessment of sex from the cranium


  • Lyle W. Konigsberg,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0720
    • Department of Anthropology, 250 South Stadium Hall, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0720
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  • Samantha M. Hens

    1. Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205
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In anthropological studies, visual indicators of sex are traditionally scored on an ordinal categorical scale. Logistic and probit regression models are commonly used statistical tools for the analysis of ordinal categorical data. These models provide unbiased estimates of the posterior probabilities of sex conditional on observed indicators, but they do so only under certain conditions. We suggest a more general method for sexing using a multivariate cumulative probit model and examine both single indicator and multivariate indicator models on a sample of 138 crania from a Late Mississippian site in middle Tennessee. The crania were scored for five common sex indicators: superciliary arch form, chin form, size of mastoid process, shape of the supraorbital margin, and nuchal cresting. Independent assessment of sex for each individual is based on pubic indicators. The traditional logistic regressions are cumbersome because of limitations imposed by missing data. The logistic regression correctly classified 66/74 males and 46/64 females, with an overall correct classification of 81%. The cumulative probit model classified 64/74 males correctly and 51/64 females correctly for an overall correct classification rate of 83%. Finally, we apply parameters estimated from the logit and probit models to find posterior probabilities of sex assignment for 296 additional crania for which pubic indicators were absent or ambiguous. Am J Phys Anthropol 107:97–112, 1998. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.