Anthropology, Department of


First Advisor

Dr. William R. Belcher

Second Advisor

Dr. Brittany S. Walter

Third Advisor

Dr. Sophia Perdikaris

Date of this Version



Petersen, B. L. (2022). Systemic Stress in Mid-Century American Military Service Members: The Impact of Socioeconomic Status and Military Service Length on the Human Skeleton (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Nebraska.


A thesis presented to the faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, under the supervision of Professor William R. Belcher. Lincoln, Nebraska: April 19, 2022

Copyright 2022 Brianna L. Petersen


The purpose of this study is to identify how socioeconomic status (SES) and, separately, length of military service, may affect the human skeleton. Specifically, this study considers non-specific indicators of skeletal stress such as periosteal reactions, enamel defects, and skeletal porosity in a sample of World War II decedents. The Exact Logistic Regression test was used to examine the possible association between military service length and the presence of skeletal porosity and periosteal reaction, and Fisher’s Exact Test of Independence was used to evaluate the relationship between SES and presence of enamel defects, skeletal porosity, and periosteal reaction. In total, this research examined five hypotheses. The study showed evidence that greater length of military service was associated with lower presence of periosteal reaction and that lower SES was associated with greater presence of periosteal reaction in this sample. This could be due to the economic security provided by the military and it could also be due to potential nutritional deficiency associated with low SES, respectively. Conversely, the Osteological Paradox is a phenomenon that may have affected this study sample. Finally, there are several avenues for future research with regards to non-specific indicators of skeletal stress, SES, and military service length.

Advisor: William R. Belcher

Included in

Anthropology Commons