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The social study of graffiti has increased dramatically in the field of sociolinguistics. The reality is that graffitti is much more than a mere artistic expression from the urban world; it is actually a window into the search for social identity, the search for the self, and into the multicultural diversity of an underground society that is not easily visible at first glance.
From an inherency perspective, a good theoretical foundation upon which to analyze graffiti is Mikhail Bakhtin's (1968) social language theory, which contends that language is affected by society, culture, and history. Hence, inherency, or innateness, explains away graffiti because this is a practice often employed by specific strata of society and is done with the purpose of strengthening an aspect of personality.
For example, Nancy Macdonald's study of the graffiti subculture of London and New York titled The Graffiti Subculture: youth, Masculinity and Identity in London and New York indicates how the practice of graffiti seems to correlate with males even across the globe in terms of how it accentuates their natural tendencies to rebel, affirm their role as males, and strengthen the bonds among sub-groups that seek to form an identity. All this is inherency.
Socioculturally speaking, notice how gangs whose common affinity is their racial or ethnic background use precisely this meme to reinstate their roots and to separate themselves from other graffiti making groups. The pride (sometimes exaggerated) and need to become identified culturally, and to expose their culture to the world, is also done through graffiti.
Cognitively speaking, graffiti can be explained through Bandura's (1960) Social Learning Theory, because this theory indicates that observational learning, peer pressure (or motivation), and the consistent search for identity are the causative agents of our choice-making processes. Therefore, Bandura could explain the spread of graffiti as a subcultural art form as a product of mimicry and observational learning because graffiti has officially become a social trend.
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