The Social Ecology of Adolescent Alcohol Misuse


  • This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA13459). We thank Kate Karriker-Jaffe for geocoding assistance and James Moody for consultation on social network analysis. In addition, we thank the students, parents, and staff in the schools that participated in the study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Susan T. Ennett, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Campus Box 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. Electronic mail may be sent to


A conceptual framework based on social ecology, social learning, and social control theories guided identification of social contexts, contextual attributes, and joint effects that contribute to development of adolescent alcohol misuse. Modeling of alcohol use, suggested by social learning theory, and indicators of the social bond, suggested by social control theory, were examined in the family, peer, school, and neighborhood contexts. Interactions between alcohol modeling and social bond indicators were tested within and between contexts. Data were from a longitudinal study of 6,544 students, 1,663 of their parents, and the U.S. Census. All contexts were uniquely implicated in development of alcohol misuse from ages 11 through 17 years, and most alcohol modeling effects were contingent on attributes of social bonds.