R Inheritance - r - learn r - r programming

  	One the most useful feature of an object oriented programming language is inheritance.
  • One the most useful feature of an object oriented programming language is inheritance.
  • Defining new classes out of existing ones.
  • This is to say, we can derive new classes from existing base classes and adding new features.
  • We don't have to write from scratch.
  • Hence, inheritance provides reusability of code.
  • r programming inheritance

    r programming inheritance

  • Inheritance forms a hierarchy of class just like a family tree.
  • Important thing to note is that the attributes define for a base class will automatically be present in the derived class.
  • Moreover, the methods for the base class will work for the derived.
One the most useful feature of an object oriented programming language is inheritance.
  • Below, we discuss how inheritance is carried out for the three different class systems in R programming language.

Inheritance in S3 Class

  • S3 classes do not have any fixed definition.
  • Hence attributes of S3 objects can be arbitrary.
  • Derived class, however, inherit the methods defined for base class.
  • Let us suppose we have a function that creates new objects of class student as follows.
student <- function(n,a,g) {
  value <- list(name=n, age=a, GPA=g)
attr(value, "class") <- "student"
  • Furthermore, we have a method defined for generic function print() as follows.
print.student<- function(obj) {
cat(obj$name, "\n")
cat(obj$age, "years old\n")
cat("GPA:", obj$GPA, "\n")
  • Now we want to create an object of class InternationalStudent which inherits from student.
  • This is be done by assigning a character vector of class names like class(obj) <- c(child, parent).

Sample Code

># create a list
> s <- list(name="Deo", age=22, GPA=3.7, country="germany")

># make it of the class InternationalStudent which is derived from the class student
>class(s) <- c("InternationalStudent","student")

># print it out
> s


22years old
GPA: 3.7
  • We can see above that, since we haven't defined any method of the form print.InternationalStudent(), the method print.student() got called. This method of class student was inherited.
  • Now let us define print.InternationalStudent().
print.InternationalStudent<- function(obj) {
cat(obj$name, "is from", obj$country, "\n")
  • This will overwrite the method defined for class student as shown below.
> s
  • We can check for inheritance with functions like inherits() or is().
> inherits(s,"student")
[1] TRUE

[1] TRUE

Inheritance in S4 Class

  • Since S4 classes have proper definition, derived classes will inherit both attributes and methods of the parent class.
  • Let us define a class student with a method for the generic function show().
# define a class called student
  slots=list(name="character", age="numeric", GPA="numeric")

# define class method for the show() generic function
function(object) {
cat([email protected], "\n")
cat([email protected], "years old\n")
cat("GPA:", [email protected], "\n")
  • Inheritance is done during the derived class definition with the argument contains as shown below.
# inherit from student
  • Here we have added an attribute country, rest will be inherited from the parent.
> s <- new("InternationalStudent",name="Deo", age=22, GPA=3.7, country="France")

> show(s)
22years old
GPA: 3.7
  • We see that method define for class student got called when we did show(s).
  • We can define methods for the derived class which will overwrite methods of the base class, like in the case of S3 systems.

Inheritance in Reference Class

  • Inheritance in reference class is very much similar to that of the S4 class.
  • We define in the contains argument, from which base class to derive from.
  • Here is an example of student reference class with two methods inc_age() and dec_age().
student <- setRefClass("student",
  fields=list(name="character", age="numeric", GPA="numeric"),
inc_age = function(x) {
      age <<- age + x
dec_age = function(x) {
      age <<- age - x
  • Now we will inherit from this class. We also overwrite dec_age() method to add an integrity check to make sure age is never negative.
InternationalStudent<- setRefClass("InternationalStudent",
dec_age = function(x) {
if((age - x)<0)  stop("Age cannot be negative")
      age <<- age - x
  • Let us put it to test.
> s <- InternationalStudent(name="Deo", age=22, GPA=3.7, country="germany")

[1] 16

Errorins$dec_age(20) : Age cannot be negative
[1] 16
  • In this way, we are able to inherit from the parent class.

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