parentElementsByTagName(doc, tagname, classname)

06 March 2006   3 comments   Web development

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I've just written a little javascript function that I have myself found extremely valuable when doing DOM scripting. It's called parentElementsByTagName() and even if it's name isn't great it really does work and has proven very useful for my app.

At any starting point in a DOM tree (first parameter) it goes "up the tree" by looping over "currentelement.parentNode". The second parameter is the tag name (eg. "div") and the third parameter is optional and it's a class name that that tag name needs to have.

I wrote this because I found myself writing this.parentNode.parentNode.parentNode... in my Javscript code and thought I'd stop that sillyness.

Here's my code. I'm sure it ain't perfect but it's helped me a lot and maybe it will help others:

/* This function returns a list of elements that are all parents of each
* other and parent of 'doc'. They're matched by tagname and *optionally*
* classname. */
function parentElementsByTagName(doc, tagname, classname) {
  var findings = new Array();
  var digg_in = doc;
  while (digg_in.parentNode) {
     digg_in = digg_in.parentNode;
     if (digg_in.nodeName.toLowerCase() == tagname.toLowerCase()) {
        if (arguments.length==3) {
           if (digg_in.getAttribute('class') &&
               digg_in.getAttribute('class').toLowerCase().indexOf(classname.toLowerCase())>-1) {
        } else {
           // no doubt
  return findings;


Matt Schinckel
I wrote a similar function, but mine was to find the parent form:

function parentForm(node) {
if (node==document) return false;
if (node.tagName=="FORM") return node;
return parentForm(node.parentNode);

I kinda like it, as it's very simple - and uses recursion to make it even simpler. I don't know if there's a limit in JavaScript to the number of stack that can be recursed.
Neville Shaun Ng
getAttribute("class") doesn't work in IE btw
Neville Shaun Ng
.className needs to be used instead for IE

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