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

Lyle W. Konigsberg, Samantha M. Hens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-112
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Averbuch Site
  • Probit analysis
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Visual sexing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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