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parentElement vs parentNode

Written byPhuoc Nguyen
23 May, 2020
First of all, you need to know the difference between an element and a node. In summary, an element is a special type of node which represents a single node in our DOM tree. It can be not only an element but also a comment, a document, a text node, etc.
The `parentElement` and `parentNode` properties in most cases return the same node:
// Both return <html> element
The only difference is that, the `parentElement` property can be `null` if the parent node is not an element node:
// The exception
// returns the Document node

// returns null because <html> element does not
// have a parent element node


By checking whether the parent element exists or not, we can travel from a given element up to the html tag:
while (ele = ele.parentElement) {
The snippet code below calculates the distance from a given element to the top of page:
const distanceToTop = (ele) => {
let x = 0;
while ((ele = ele.parentElement)) {
x += ele.offsetTop;
return x;

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Phước Nguyễn