Understanding Multiple Inheritance

2 minute read

Multiple inheritance is a concept in object-oriented programming (OOP) where a class can inherit attributes and methods from more than one superclass. While Java does not support multiple inheritance of classes, it does support multiple inheritance of interfaces. In this tutorial, we’ll explore multiple inheritance, its benefits, drawbacks, and how it can be implemented using interfaces in Java.

Understanding Inheritance in Java

In Java, inheritance allows a class to inherit properties and behaviors from another class or interface. This promotes code reuse and facilitates the creation of hierarchical relationships between classes.

Overview of Multiple Inheritance

Multiple inheritance allows a class to inherit from multiple classes or interfaces. This means that a subclass can have attributes and methods from more than one superclass or interface.

Example Illustration of Multiple Inheritance

While Java does not support multiple inheritance of classes due to the diamond problem, it does support multiple inheritance of interfaces. Let’s illustrate this with an example:

// Interface 1
interface Swim {
    void swim();

// Interface 2
interface Fly {
    void fly();

// Class implementing multiple interfaces
class Bird implements Swim, Fly {
    public void swim() {
        System.out.println("Bird is swimming...");

    public void fly() {
        System.out.println("Bird is flying...");

// Main class
public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Bird bird = new Bird();
        bird.swim(); // Method from Swim interface
        bird.fly(); // Method from Fly interface

In this example:

  • We have two interfaces Swim and Fly, each with a single method.
  • The class Bird implements both interfaces and provides implementations for their methods.
  • In the main method, we create an instance of Bird and call both swim() and fly() methods.

Benefits of Multiple Inheritance

  1. Code Reusability: Multiple inheritance allows for more extensive code reuse by inheriting attributes and methods from multiple sources.
  2. Increased Flexibility: It provides greater flexibility in designing class hierarchies, as classes can inherit from multiple interfaces to gain desired functionalities.
  3. Modularity: Multiple inheritance promotes modularity by organizing classes into a hierarchical structure, making the codebase easier to manage and maintain.

Drawbacks of Multiple Inheritance

  1. Diamond Problem: In languages that support multiple inheritance of classes, such as C++, the diamond problem can occur, leading to ambiguity and complexities in method resolution.
  2. Increased Complexity: Multiple inheritance can lead to increased complexity in the codebase, making it harder to understand and maintain.
  3. Potential for Tight Coupling: Inheriting from multiple sources can result in tight coupling between classes, leading to dependencies that can affect code maintainability.

Best Practices for Using Multiple Inheritance

  1. Prefer Composition over Inheritance: When faced with complex class relationships, consider using composition instead of multiple inheritance to avoid potential issues such as the diamond problem.
  2. Use Interfaces for Multiple Inheritance: In Java, leverage multiple inheritance of interfaces to achieve code reuse and flexibility without the complexities associated with multiple inheritance of classes.

Real-world Applications

Multiple inheritance, when used judiciously, can be beneficial in various scenarios, such as:

  • Modeling complex relationships between classes with diverse functionalities.
  • Implementing design patterns such as the Adapter pattern, where a class needs to inherit behavior from multiple interfaces.


In conclusion, while Java does not support multiple inheritance of classes, it does support multiple inheritance of interfaces, which provides similar benefits in terms of code reuse and flexibility. By leveraging multiple inheritance of interfaces, developers can design modular, maintainable, and scalable Java code that meets the requirements of complex software systems.

Understanding the principles and best practices of multiple inheritance is essential for writing efficient and robust Java applications.