Childhood secret club

Childhood secret club

A childhood secret club is an informal organization created by children.


Key elements

Some defining features of a childhood secret club are:

Names. Unlike cliques, these associations have names. Giving a name to the group is what creates the club. These younger groups don't have the social competition that adolescent cliques do, or the level of bad behaviour that street gangs have.

Peer leadership. Unlike group activities like Scouting, which are led by adults, these groups are led by children.

Pro forma secrecy. The secrecy may be more imaginary than real. For instance the name of the club and its membership are usually obvious to all. There may be a desire to create secret codes and plans, but they are rarely implemented. A ramshackle den, tree house, clubhouse, fort, or "secret base" may be built in nearby scrub-land or an abandoned building.

Single-sex membership. Such clubs are usually either all boys or all girls but not mixed[citation needed] but exceptions do occur. There may be a sense of competition between the genders, as well as independence from adult authority.

Catch-phrase/greetings/secret words. Sometimes the clubs develop one or more secret catch-phrases or (sometimes nonsensical words) and greetings. This is illustrated in the 1982 film P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang.

Their status

Many schools have rules against secret clubs, and some jurisdictions even have laws prohibiting secret or invitation-only societies in public elementary or secondary schools.[citation needed]

The fact that interest in these clubs tends to be a passing phase at a certain age What age? may result from the stages of children's cognitive development. After growing out of the "egocentric", or "preoperational" stage,[citation needed] reaching the "age of reason", one is able to understand other people's intentions. The next step is the ability to understand groups and the desire to belong to a club.

Written material about these secret clubs, such as the external links listed below, cites eight- and nine-year-olds most often. While slightly older children may also participate in secret clubs, they would be less expected to use fantasy elements in their activities.

Juvenile comics and literature often feature such clubs as a plot device, often with spy or detective themes, and often far more organized than their real-life counterparts. A more realistic depiction is found in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's novel The Egypt Game, in which six children gather in an abandoned storage yard to enact fantasy adventures and recreate actual ceremonies based on and adapted from their knowledge of ancient Egypt.

Movies have featured such clubs, notably the early Ealing comedy-thriller Hue & Cry. There are also juvenile non-fiction books that serve as "how-to's" for code-making and surveillance, most notably the Usborne Good Spy Guide series.


Thomson, Ruth; Judy Hindley, Colin King, Elisabeth Graham-Yooll (1978). The Good Spy Guide: Tracking and Trailing. London: Usborne. ISBN 0-86020-168-6. 

Sobel, David (2001). Children's Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood. 

See also

External links

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