A new approach for the analysis of facial growth and age estimation: Iris ratio

Carlos Eduardo Palhares Machado (Lead / Corresponding author), Marta Regina Pinheiro Flores, Laíse Nascimento Correia Lima, Rachel Lima Ribeiro Tinoco, Ademir Franco, Ana Cristina Barreto Bezerra, Martin Paul Evison, Marco Aurélio Guimarães

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34 Citations (Scopus)
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The study of facial growth is explored in many fields of science, including anatomy, genetics, and forensics. In the field of forensics, it acts as a valuable tool for combating child pornography. The present research proposes a new method, based on relative measurements and fixed references of the human face—specifically considering measurements of the diameter of the iris (iris ratio)—for the analysis of facial growth in association with age in children and sub-adults. The experimental sample consisted of digital photographs of 1000 Brazilian subjects, aged between 6 and 22 years, distributed equally by sex and divided into five specific age groups (6, 10, 14, 18, and 22 year olds ± one month). The software package SAFF-2D® (Forensic Facial Analysis System, Brazilian Federal Police, Brazil) was used for positioning 11 landmarks on the images. Ten measurements were calculated and used as fixed references to evaluate the growth of the other measurements for each age group, as well the accumulated growth (6–22 years old). The Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) was applied for the evaluation of intra-examiner and inter-examiner reliability within a specific set of images. Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient was used to assess the association between each measurement taken and the respective age groups. ANOVA and Post-hoc Tukey tests were used to search for statistical differences between the age groups. The outcomes indicated that facial structures grow with different timing in children and adolescents. Moreover, the growth allometry expressed in this study may be used to understand what structures have more or less proportional variation in function for the age ranges studied. The diameter of the iris was found to be the most stable measurement compared to the others and represented the best cephalometric measurement as a fixed reference for facial growth ratios (or indices). The method described shows promising potential for forensic applications, especially as part of the armamentarium against crimes involving child pornography and child abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0180330
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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