Environmental effects on skeletal versus dental development: Using a documented subadult skeletal sample to test a basic assumption in human osteological research


  • Hugo F.V. Cardoso

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia (Museu Bocage), Museu Nacional de História Natural, Rua da Escola Politécnica 58, 1269-102 Lisboa, Portugal
    • Museu Nacional de História Natural, Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Rua da Escola Politécnica 58, 1269-102 Lisboa, Portugal
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This study examines the relationship between measures of skeletal and dental development and socioeconomic factors in a 20th century documented skeletal sample of children from Portugal. The skeletons are of known sex and chronological age, and include other biographic data, such as cause of death. Growth in the length of the long bone is used as a measure of skeletal growth, and schedules of tooth formation are used as a measure of dental development. These two measures of physiological age were compared to chronological age, to assess growth and developmental status. Socioeconomic indicators were obtained from the supporting documentation, and include the occupation of the father and the place of residence, which were used to build a socioeconomic classification based on two groups, one of low and the other of high socioeconomic status. Growth and development status was then compared in these two groups. Results show that socioeconomic differences are much more pronounced in skeletal growth than in dental development. This largely supports the assertion that dental development is buffered against environmental factors relative to skeletal development. However, in this study, skeletal maturation could not be assessed, and findings indicate that dental development can show significant delays at the lower end of the socioeconomic gradient. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.