Understanding Python Class Memory Handling with Inheritance

What will you learn?

In this tutorial, you will delve into how Python manages memory when a class inherits an array from another class. By exploring the intricacies of memory handling in inheritance, specifically focusing on arrays, you will gain insights into optimizing memory usage strategies in object-oriented programming.

Introduction to Problem and Solution

When working with class inheritance in Python, especially involving data structures like arrays passed between classes, understanding memory management is essential. Efficient memory handling not only ensures performance but also helps prevent issues like bloating or memory leaks in your applications.

To address this challenge effectively, we will start by examining the fundamentals of class inheritance in Python. Subsequently, we will investigate how arrays (or list objects) are treated during the inheritance process. Through illustrative examples and detailed explanations, we aim to provide clarity on whether inherited objects duplicate in memory or reference the same location as their parent counterparts. This exploration will equip you with best practices for managing memory efficiently while harnessing the benefits of inheritance.


class ParentClass:
    def __init__(self):
        self.array = [1, 2, 3]

class ChildClass(ParentClass):
    def __init__(self):

# Instantiate child class and access modified array
child_instance = ChildClass()

# Copyright PHD


In the provided code snippet: – ParentClass initializes with an array (list) containing three elements. – ChildClass, inheriting from ParentClass, invokes super().__init__() to execute its parent’s initialization method. This ensures that ChildClass possesses all attributes from ParentClass, including self.array. – An additional element (4) is appended to self.array within ChildClass. – Upon instantiation of ChildClass and printing child_instance.array, the output displays [1, 2, 3, 4].

This showcases that when inheriting attributes like lists (arrays) in Python: – The child object references the same list object initialized by its parent unless explicitly copied. – Modifications made through any instance (parent or child) reflect across all instances sharing that attribute. – Inheritance does not create duplicate copies; instead, inherited attributes maintain their original memory addresses until reassigned or explicitly copied.

This approach aids efficient memory management but requires vigilance regarding shared state among mutable objects across classes.

    How does Python manage memory for inherited objects?

    Python employs reference counting to manage object lifecycle�including those involved in inheritance�where each object tracks the number of references pointing to it. Deletion occurs once there are no more references.

    Are lists deep-copied during class inheritance?

    No. Lists and other mutable objects are not automatically deep-copied during inheritance; they remain referenced unless explicitly copied using methods like .copy() or modules like copy.deepcopy().

    Does modifying an inherited attribute affect the parent class?

    Yes. Inherited attributes refer to the same object in memory unless specified otherwise; modifications through any subclass instance also impact instances of parent classes sharing that attribute.

    Can immutable types be safely inherited without worrying about shared state?

    Immutable types such as tuples do not encounter issues related to unexpected modifications since they cannot be altered after creation�each modification results in a new object being created.

    How can changes made on subclasses be prevented from affecting superclasses?

    Consider employing techniques like shallow copying (list.copy()) or deep copying (copy.deepcopy()) where necessary to ensure independence between superclass and subclass states concerning mutable types.


    Comprehending how Python handles inheritances, especially concerning array management, is crucial for developing efficient code while mitigating bugs arising from unintended mutability or shared-state issues. Acquiring awareness along with strategic application of deepcopy/shallow copy methodologies enables developers to navigate complexities surrounding optimized resource allocations effectively and steer clear of pitfalls inherent in efficient development practices for maintaining robust and scalable software architectures.

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