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How to get a parent element with vanilla JS

Today, we’re going to look at two ways to get a parent element with vanilla JS.

Let’s dig in.

The parentNode property

Every element in the DOM has a parentNode property on it. This returns the parent of the element.

Let’s look at a list of items.

<ul id="list">
	<li id="a">A</li>
	<li id="b">B</li>
	<li id="c">C</li>
	<li id="d">D</li>

Using the parentNode property, we can get the parent element (#list) of our #c list items.

var c = document.querySelector('#c');

// Returns the #list element

Here’s a demo.

Finding the first parent that matches a selector with the closest() method

Let’s say you had a nested list, and you wanted to find the first parent element with a class of .top.

<ul class="top" id="list">
	<li class="a">A</li>
	<li class="b">
		<ul class="nested" id="sublist">
			<li class="a">A2</li>
			<li class="b">B2</li>
			<li class="c" id="c2">C2</li>
			<li class="d">D2</li>
	<li class="c">C</li>
	<li class="d">D</li>

You can call the closest() method on the element you want to find the matching parent for, and pass in the selector as an argument.

var c2 = document.querySelector('#c2');

// Returns the `#list` element

The closest() method will also check the element it’s called on, so if the #c2 element had the .top class on it, that would be the matching result.

You can start with the first parent element by combining the parentNode property and closest() method together.

// Will start by checking the parent element of #c2 instead of #c2 itself

Here’s another demo.

Browser compatibility

The parentNode property works in all modern browsers, and back to at least IE6.

The closest() method works in all modern browsers, but has no IE support. You can push support back to IE9 with a polyfill.