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I have the following structure:

FormEditor - holds multiple instances of FieldEditor FieldEditor - edits a field of the form and saving various values about it in its state

When a button is clicked within FormEditor, I want to be able to collect information about the fields from all FieldEditor components, information that's in their state, and have it all within FormEditor.

I considered storing the information about the fields outside of FieldEditor's state and put it in FormEditor's state instead. However, that would require FormEditor to listen to each of its FieldEditor components as they change and store their information in its state.

Can't I just access the children's state instead? Is it ideal?

Just before I go into detail about how you can access the state of a child component, please make sure to read Markus-ipse's answer regarding a better solution to handle this particular scenario.

If you do indeed wish to access the state of a component's children, you can assign a property called ref to each child. There are now two ways to implement references: Using React.createRef() and callback refs.

Using React.createRef()

This is currently the recommended way to use references as of React 16.3 (See the documentation for more information). If you're using an earlier version then see below regarding callback references.

You'll need to create a new reference in the constructor of your parent component and then assign it to a child via the ref attribute.

class FormEditor extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.FieldEditor1 = React.createRef();
  }
  render() {
    return <FieldEditor ref={this.FieldEditor1} />;
  }
}

In order to access this kind of ref, you'll need to use:

const currentFieldEditor1 = this.FieldEditor1.current;

This will return an instance of the mounted component so you can then use currentFieldEditor1.state to access the state.

Just a quick note to say that if you use these references on a DOM node instead of a component (e.g. <div ref={this.divRef} />) then this.divRef.current will return the underlying DOM element instead of a component instance.

Callback Refs

This property takes a callback function that is passed a reference to the attached component. This callback is executed immediately after the component is mounted or unmounted.

For example:

<FieldEditor
    ref={(fieldEditor1) => {this.fieldEditor1 = fieldEditor1;}
    {...props}
/>

In these examples the reference is stored on the parent component. To call this component in your code, you can use:

this.fieldEditor1

and then use this.fieldEditor1.state to get the state.

One thing to note, make sure your child component has rendered before you try to access it ^_^

As above, if you use these references on a DOM node instead of a component (e.g. <div ref={(divRef) => {this.myDiv = divRef;}} />) then this.divRef will return the underlying DOM element instead of a component instance.

Further Information

If you want to read more about React's ref property, check out this page from Facebook.

Make sure you read the "Don't Overuse Refs" section that says that you shouldn't use the child's state to "make things happen".

213 users liked answer #0dislike answer #0213
Martoid Prime profile pic
Martoid Prime

If you already have an onChange handler for the individual FieldEditors I don't see why you couldn't just move the state up to the FormEditor component and just pass down a callback from there to the FieldEditors that will update the parent state. That seems like a more React-y way to do it, to me.

Something along the line of this perhaps:

const FieldEditor = ({ value, onChange, id }) => {
  const handleChange = event => {
    const text = event.target.value;
    onChange(id, text);
  };

  return (
    <div className="field-editor">
      <input onChange={handleChange} value={value} />
    </div>
  );
};

const FormEditor = props => {
  const [values, setValues] = useState({});
  const handleFieldChange = (fieldId, value) => {
    setValues({ ...values, [fieldId]: value });
  };

  const fields = props.fields.map(field => (
    <FieldEditor
      key={field}
      id={field}
      onChange={handleFieldChange}
      value={values[field]}
    />
  ));

  return (
    <div>
      {fields}
      <pre>{JSON.stringify(values, null, 2)}</pre>
    </div>
  );
};

// To add the ability to dynamically add/remove fields, keep the list in state
const App = () => {
  const fields = ["field1", "field2", "anotherField"];

  return <FormEditor fields={fields} />;
};

Original - pre-hooks version:

class FieldEditor extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.handleChange = this.handleChange.bind(this);
  }

  handleChange(event) {
    const text = event.target.value;
    this.props.onChange(this.props.id, text);
  }

  render() {
    return (
      <div className="field-editor">
        <input onChange={this.handleChange} value={this.props.value} />
      </div>
    );
  }
}

class FormEditor extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.state = {};

    this.handleFieldChange = this.handleFieldChange.bind(this);
  }

  handleFieldChange(fieldId, value) {
    this.setState({ [fieldId]: value });
  }

  render() {
    const fields = this.props.fields.map(field => (
      <FieldEditor
        key={field}
        id={field}
        onChange={this.handleFieldChange}
        value={this.state[field]}
      />
    ));

    return (
      <div>
        {fields}
        <div>{JSON.stringify(this.state)}</div>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

// Convert to a class component and add the ability to dynamically add/remove fields by having it in state
const App = () => {
  const fields = ["field1", "field2", "anotherField"];

  return <FormEditor fields={fields} />;
};

ReactDOM.render(<App />, document.body);
176 users liked answer #1dislike answer #1176
Markus-ipse profile pic
Markus-ipse

As the previous answers said, try to move the state to a top component and modify the state through callbacks passed to its children.

In case that you really need to access to a child state that is declared as a functional component (hooks) you can declare a ref in the parent component, and then pass it as a ref attribute to the child, but you need to use React.forwardRef and then the hook useImperativeHandle to declare a function you can call in the parent component.

Take a look at the following example:

const Parent = () => {
    const myRef = useRef();
    return <Child ref={myRef} />;
}

const Child = React.forwardRef((props, ref) => {
    const [myState, setMyState] = useState('This is my state!');
    useImperativeHandle(ref, () => ({getMyState: () => {return myState}}), [myState]);
})

Then you should be able to get myState in the Parent component by calling:

myRef.current.getMyState();

29 users liked answer #2dislike answer #229
Mauricio Avendaño profile pic
Mauricio Avendaño

It's 2020 and lots of you will come here looking for a similar solution but with Hooks (they are great!) and with the latest approaches in terms of code cleanliness and syntax.

So as previous answers had stated, the best approach to this kind of problem is to hold the state outside of child component fieldEditor. You could do that in multiple ways.

The most "complex" is with a global context (state) that both parent and children could access and modify. It's a great solution when components are very deep in the tree hierarchy and so it's costly to send props in each level.

In this case I think it's not worth it, and a more simple approach will bring us the results we want, just using the powerful React.useState().

An approach with a React.useState() hook - way simpler than with Class components

As said, we will deal with changes and store the data of our child component fieldEditor in our parent fieldForm. To do that we will send a reference to the function that will deal and apply the changes to the fieldForm state, you could do that with:

function FieldForm({ fields }) {
  const [fieldsValues, setFieldsValues] = React.useState({});
  const handleChange = (event, fieldId) => {
    let newFields = { ...fieldsValues };
    newFields[fieldId] = event.target.value;

    setFieldsValues(newFields);
  };

  return (
    <div>
      {fields.map(field => (
        <FieldEditor
          key={field}
          id={field}
          handleChange={handleChange}
          value={fieldsValues[field]}
        />
      ))}
      <div>{JSON.stringify(fieldsValues)}</div>
    </div>
  );
}

Note that React.useState({}) will return an array with position 0 being the value specified on call (Empty object in this case), and position 1 being the reference to the function that modifies the value.

Now with the child component, FieldEditor, you don't even need to create a function with a return statement. A lean constant with an arrow function will do!

const FieldEditor = ({ id, value, handleChange }) => (
  <div className="field-editor">
    <input onChange={event => handleChange(event, id)} value={value} />
  </div>
);

Aaaaand we are done, nothing more. With just these two slim functional components we have our end goal "access" our child FieldEditor value and show it off in our parent.

You could check the accepted answer from 5 years ago and see how Hooks made React code leaner (by a lot!).

Hope my answer helps you learn and understand more about Hooks, and if you want to check a working example here it is.

26 users liked answer #3dislike answer #326
Josep Vidal profile pic
Josep Vidal

Now you can access the InputField's state which is the child of FormEditor.

Basically, whenever there is a change in the state of the input field (child), we are getting the value from the event object and then passing this value to the Parent where in the state in the Parent is set.

On a button click, we are just printing the state of the input fields.

The key point here is that we are using the props to get the input field's id/value and also to call the functions which are set as attributes on the input field while we generate the reusable child input fields.

class InputField extends React.Component{
  handleChange = (event)=> {
    const val = event.target.value;
    this.props.onChange(this.props.id , val);
  }

  render() {
    return(
      <div>
        <input type="text" onChange={this.handleChange} value={this.props.value}/>
        <br/><br/>
      </div>
    );
  }
}


class FormEditorParent extends React.Component {
  state = {};
  handleFieldChange = (inputFieldId , inputFieldValue) => {
    this.setState({[inputFieldId]:inputFieldValue});
  }
  // On a button click, simply get the state of the input field
  handleClick = ()=>{
    console.log(JSON.stringify(this.state));
  }

  render() {
    const fields = this.props.fields.map(field => (
      <InputField
        key={field}
        id={field}
        onChange={this.handleFieldChange}
        value={this.state[field]}
      />
    ));

    return (
      <div>
        <div>
          <button onClick={this.handleClick}>Click Me</button>
        </div>
        <div>
          {fields}
        </div>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

const App = () => {
  const fields = ["field1", "field2", "anotherField"];
  return <FormEditorParent fields={fields} />;
};

ReactDOM.render(<App/>, mountNode);
6 users liked answer #4dislike answer #46
Dhana profile pic
Dhana

You may access the child state by passing a callback to the child component.

const Parent = () => {
  return (
    <Child onSubmit={(arg) => { 
             console.log('accessing child state from parent callback: ', arg) 
           }} 
    /> 
  )
}

const Child = ({onSubmit}) => {
    const [text, setText] = useState('');

    return (
      <>
        <input value={text} onChange={setText}>
        <button onClick={() => onSubmit(search)} />
      </>
    )
}

Now if you click the button in the child component, you will execute the function passed from the parent and have access to the child component's state variables.

1 users liked answer #5dislike answer #51
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Ayudh

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