peer group

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Any group in which individuals perceive one another as sharing values, have about equal social standing and educational level, and share activities that define the group. Perception of peer group members and nonmembers is often flexible, and membership may be fluid. Peer groups sometimes have a hierarchical structure, an acknowledged leader, a policy of exclusion of outsiders, and codes of conduct or unwritten rules that may have implications for health. For example, adolescent peer groups may reject adult values about harmful behavior, such as drug use, or have hazardous initiation rites.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.

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