The effects of socioeconomic status on endochondral and appositional bone growth, and acquisition of cortical bone in children from 19th century Birmingham, England
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Endochondral growth, appositional growth, and acquisition of cortical bone thickness in the femur are investigated in subadult skeletons (N = 43, dental age range birth to 12 years) from the 19(th)-century AD burial site of St. Martin's churchyard, Birmingham, England. Endochondral growth is monitored using diaphyseal femoral length. Appositional growth is monitored using radiographic midshaft mediolateral width and acquisition of cortical bone using combined mediolateral cortical thickness measured at the midshaft from radiographs. The methodology involves plotting these variables against dental age. Growth is compared in children of differing socioeconomic status. Higher and lower status individuals are identified in the assemblage by their burial in brick vaults in the case of the former and in earth-cut graves in the case of the latter. The relationships between bone dimensions and dental age are described using a polynomial regression procedure, and analysis of regression residuals is used to evaluate differences in bone dimension-for-dental age between the two status groups. Results show that lower socioeconomic status individuals had lower cortical thickness-for-dental age than those of higher status. This was interpreted as likely reflecting poorer nutrition in the children of lower socioeconomic backgrounds. There was no patterning with respect to socioeconomic status in femur diaphyseal length or midshaft width. The results support the idea that, for skeletal populations, growth in cortical thickness may be a more sensitive indicator of adverse conditions in childhood than growth in bone length or width.
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