The researchers suggested that the risk from one area could possibly be magnified or decreased by attributes of another.
Previous research on teen drinking has focused mostly on individuals' ties to friends and family members, however, the highlights the importance of examining the connections between all of the social environments in which they live.
During the study, the researchers examined the data of 6,544 teens ages 11 to 17 enrolled in three public school systems in North Carolina, surveying them every six months for a total of five times.
The adolescents were in grades 6, 7, and 8 when they were first surveyed, and in grades 8, 9, and 10 at the end of the study.
The researchers found that characteristics present in all four social environments-family, peers, schools, and neighbourhoods-played a role in whether teens misused alcohol.
They also found that the adolescents generally were more likely to misuse alcohol the more they were exposed to alcohol use by others in their social environments.
Other characteristics of those environments tended to increase or decrease the risk associated with alcohol misuse.
For example, the risk for teens of being exposed to drinking by schoolmates weakened when parents supervised their children, while the risk of exposure to drinking by schoolmates grew when there was conflict in the family and when more family members drank.
"Our findings affirm what social ecological theories suggest: Adolescents are embedded in a social world of family, friends, schoolmates, and neighbours, all of whom matter to adolescent development," said Susan T. Ennett, associate professor of health behaviour and health education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the study's lead author.
"And adolescent alcohol misuse is socially conditioned behaviour," she added.
The study appears in the journal Child Development.