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Social groups, usually of adolescents and young adults, often single-sex groups, that may form, dissolve, and form again with changed membership. They provide mutual emotional and social support for their members, may operate on the fringes of or entirely outside the accepted norms and customs of society, may defy authority figures and engage in criminal behavior. Their relevance to personal and community health includes promotion of risky or harmful behavior, such as promiscuous sexual conduct, alcohol and other substance abuse, and assaults on nongang members, girls and women, elderly people, and ethnic or other minorities. Public health authorities sometimes succeed in directing the energy of gangs to desirable social purposes, such as clearing derelict industrial sites or delivering groceries to housebound infirm people.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology — United States History.

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