What is the difference between children and childNodes in JavaScript?

What is the difference between children and childNodes in JavaScript?

I have found myself using JavaScript and I ran across childNodes and children properties. I am wondering what the difference between them is. Also is one preferred to the other?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

.children is a property of an Element. Only Elements have children, and these children are all of type Element.

However .childNodes is a property of Node. .childNodes can contain any node.

So a concrete example would be

var el = document.createElement("div");
el.textContent = "foo"
el.childNodes.length === 1; // TextNode is a node child
el.children.length === 0; // no Element children

Of course .children is DOM4 so browser support is shaky, however if you use the DOM-shim, your cross browser problems will go away!

Most of the time you want to use .children because generally you don’t want to loop over TextNodes or Comments in your DOM manipulation.

If you do want to manipulate TextNodes you probably want .textContent instead.

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Solution 2:

Element.children returns only element children, while Node.childNodes returns all node children. Note that elements are nodes, so both are available on elements.

I believe childNodes is more reliable. For example, MDC (linked above) notes that IE only got children right in IE 9. childNodes provides less room for error by browser implementors.

Solution 3:

Good answers so far, I want to only add that you could check the type of a node using nodeType:

yourElement.nodeType

This will give you an integer: (taken from here)

| Value |             Constant             |                          Description                          |  |
|-------|----------------------------------|---------------------------------------------------------------|--|
|    1  | Node.ELEMENT_NODE                | An Element node such as <p> or <div>.                         |  |
|    2  | Node.ATTRIBUTE_NODE              | An Attribute of an Element. The element attributes            |  |
|       |                                  | are no longer implementing the Node interface in              |  |
|       |                                  | DOM4 specification.                                           |  |
|    3  | Node.TEXT_NODE                   | The actual Text of Element or Attr.                           |  |
|    4  | Node.CDATA_SECTION_NODE          | A CDATASection.                                               |  |
|    5  | Node.ENTITY_REFERENCE_NODE       | An XML Entity Reference node. Removed in DOM4 specification.  |  |
|    6  | Node.ENTITY_NODE                 | An XML <!ENTITY ...> node. Removed in DOM4 specification.     |  |
|    7  | Node.PROCESSING_INSTRUCTION_NODE | A ProcessingInstruction of an XML document                    |  |
|       |                                  | such as <?xml-stylesheet ... ?> declaration.                  |  |
|    8  | Node.COMMENT_NODE                | A Comment node.                                               |  |
|    9  | Node.DOCUMENT_NODE               | A Document node.                                              |  |
|   10  | Node.DOCUMENT_TYPE_NODE          | A DocumentType node e.g. <!DOCTYPE html> for HTML5 documents. |  |
|   11  | Node.DOCUMENT_FRAGMENT_NODE      | A DocumentFragment node.                                      |  |
|   12  | Node.NOTATION_NODE               | An XML <!NOTATION ...> node. Removed in DOM4 specification.   |  |

Note that according to Mozilla:

The following constants have been deprecated and should not be used
anymore: Node.ATTRIBUTE_NODE, Node.ENTITY_REFERENCE_NODE, Node.ENTITY_NODE, Node.NOTATION_NODE

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