Difference Between Multilevel and Multiple Inheritance

Difference Between Multilevel and Multiple Inheritance

6 mins readComment
Esha
Esha Gupta
Associate Senior Executive
Updated on May 13, 2024 16:40 IST

Have you ever wondered about the difference between multilevel and multiple inheritance in OOP? Multilevel follows a parent-child chain for extending classes, while multiple allows a class to inherit features from multiple classes simultaneously. Let's understand more!

Multilevel inheritance is about forming a direct line of inheritance from a base class through intermediate classes to a derived class, whereas multiple inheritance is about combining features from several base classes into a single class. In this blog, we will see the differences between them in detail!

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Table of Content

Difference Between Multilevel and Multiple Inheritance

Below is a table showing the differences between multilevel and multiple inheritance.

Aspect

Multilevel Inheritance

Multiple Inheritance

Definition

A type of inheritance where a class is derived from a class which is also derived from another class. Essentially, it’s a “grandparent-parent-child” relationship.

A type of inheritance where a class can inherit from more than one class. The child class has multiple parent classes.

Class Relationship

Forms a linear inheritance hierarchy. A single inheritance chain is formed from base to derived classes.

Forms a branched inheritance hierarchy. A single class inherits attributes and behaviours from multiple base classes.

Example

Class C inherits from Class B, and Class B inherits from Class A.

Class C inherits from both Class A and Class B simultaneously.

Implementation

Simpler and supported by most object-oriented languages, including Java, C++, and Python.

More complex and not supported by some languages like Java. It is supported in C++ and Python.

Use Case

Useful when extending the functionality of a class through a single lineage of classes.

Useful when a class needs to inherit diverse functionalities from several unrelated or loosely related classes.

Potential Issues

Less prone to complexity but can lead to deep inheritance hierarchies that might be hard to manage.

Can lead to complexity and ambiguity, particularly with the Diamond Problem, where a class inherits the same method from multiple parent classes.

 

What is Multilevel Inheritance?

Multilevel inheritance in object-oriented programming (OOP) is a type of inheritance where a class (referred to as a child class or subclass) is derived from another class, which in turn is derived from yet another class. This creates a hierarchical inheritance structure that resembles a multilevel chain. In simpler terms, it's like a "grandparent-parent-child" relationship among classes.

Key Points:

  • Class Hierarchy: In multilevel inheritance, you have a chain of classes connected through inheritance. For instance, if class B inherits from class A, and class C inherits from class B, then class C indirectly inherits from class A as well. This creates a linear inheritance path from the base class (A) to the most derived class (C).
  • Inherited Features: In this inheritance model, the most derived class (like class C in the example) will inherit all public and protected members (methods and fields) of its parent class (class B), and the parent class will in turn inherit from its own parent class (class A).
  • Use Cases: Multilevel inheritance is useful when there is a need to extend the functionality of a class in a step-by-step manner. Each class in the hierarchy adds its own features or modifies existing behaviours of the parent classes.
  • Languages Supporting Multilevel Inheritance: Most object-oriented programming languages like Java, C++, and Python support multilevel inheritance.

What is Multiple Inheritance?

Multiple inheritance is a feature in object-oriented programming (OOP) where a class can inherit properties and methods from more than one parent class. This allows a class to combine and extend the functionality of multiple base classes, creating a more versatile and potentially powerful object structure.

Key Points:

  • Class Hierarchy: In multiple inheritance, a single class has more than one superclass from which it directly inherits. This creates a branched class hierarchy rather than a linear one.
  • Inherited Features: A class that uses multiple inheritance will inherit all the public and protected members (methods and fields) from each of its parent classes. This allows the derived class to exhibit combined behaviours and characteristics of all its parent classes.
  • Ambiguity and Complexity: Multiple inheritance can lead to complexity, especially in cases where the same method or property exists in more than one parent class (known as the "Diamond Problem"). The programming language or the programmer must have a way to specify which parent class's method or property should be used in such scenarios.
  • Programming Languages Support: Not all programming languages support multiple inheritance. For instance, C++ and Python support it, but Java and C# do not. In languages that do not support multiple inheritance, similar functionality can often be achieved using interfaces or other design patterns.

Thus, both multilevel and multiple inheritance are fundamental concepts in object-oriented programming. They differ significantly in their structure and application.

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FAQs

What is multilevel inheritance?

Multilevel inheritance in object-oriented programming (OOP) occurs when a class is derived from another class, which is itself derived from another class. This creates a chain of inheritance where a class (say, a grandchild class) inherits from its parent class, which in turn inherits from its grandparent class. This allows the grandchild class to access properties and methods of both its parent and grandparent classes.

What is multiple inheritance?

Multiple inheritance is a feature of some OOP languages where a class can inherit properties and methods from more than one parent class. This means a single class can derive behavior and attributes from multiple source classes. Multiple inheritance can lead to complexities and ambiguities, such as the "diamond problem," where it becomes unclear from which parent class a method should be inherited if both parent classes define a method with the same name.

How do multilevel and multiple inheritance differ in their structure?

The key difference in structure is that multilevel inheritance forms a linear hierarchy that is a straight line of inheritance where a class has a single parent class, and that parent class may have its own parent class, and so on. Multiple inheritance, on the other hand, forms a network of inheritance where a child class can have two or more parent classes, creating a more complex hierarchy that is not linear.

Can you give examples of programming languages that support multilevel and multiple inheritance?

  • Multilevel Inheritance: Supported by most object-oriented languages, including Java, C#, Python, and C++. It's a common form of inheritance due to its simplicity and clarity.
  • Multiple Inheritance: Not all languages support this due to its complexity. C++ and Python support multiple inheritance, allowing classes to inherit from more than one class. Java and C# do not support multiple inheritance with classes to avoid complexity and ambiguity; however, they allow a class to implement multiple interfaces, which can achieve a similar effect without the complications of inheriting state.

What are the practical implications of using multilevel versus multiple inheritance?

  • Multilevel Inheritance is generally easier to manage and understand because the inheritance chain is straightforward. It's well-suited for creating a hierarchy of classes that build upon each other, adding or extending functionality at each level.
  • Multiple Inheritance requires careful design to avoid conflicts and ambiguities, such as when two parent classes have methods with the same name. It offers greater flexibility in combining behaviors and attributes from different classes but at the risk of increased complexity. Languages that support multiple inheritance provide mechanisms to resolve these issues, but developers need to use these features judiciously to maintain code clarity and integrity.
About the Author
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Esha Gupta
Associate Senior Executive

Hello, world! I'm Esha Gupta, your go-to Technical Content Developer focusing on Java, Data Structures and Algorithms, and Front End Development. Alongside these specialities, I have a zest for immersing myself in v... Read Full Bio