How to get parent PID from a given child's PID?

I know I can manually check it under /proc, I wonder if there is a smart/better way to achieve this in Ubuntu. Note the parent may or may not be killed.


4 Answers 4


How to get a parent PID (PPID) from a child's process ID (PID) using the command-line

Use ps -o ppid=

  • e.g. ps -o ppid= 2072 returns 2061, which you can easily use in a script etc. ps -o ppid= -C foo gives the PPID of process with command foo. You can also use the old fashioned ps | grep: ps -eo ppid,comm | grep '[f]oo'.
  • Fuller explanation: ps -f 2072 returns
    izx       2072  2061  0 07:16 ?        S      0:00 /usr/lib/pulseaudio/pulse/gconf-helper
  • The pstree relation is: pstree -s -p 2072:
  • Do you know of a way to make pstree show invocations (command + arguments) without splitting lines? My installation automatically splits lines if I add arguments, even if the result could easily fit on one line. The man page appears to say as much, but doesn't give a reason. My workaround involves extracting PID's from pstree and using ps -o args ... on the results, but that has a bit of a smell.
    – John P
    Mar 1, 2017 at 4:13
  • Just something that surprised me: The space after ppid= but before the pid seems to be necessary. I got different results if I omitted it. Feb 8, 2019 at 0:27
  • I did ps -o ppid=$$ to get the PPID of the current shell. Thanks.
    – aderchox
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:16

Using only variable to get parent PID :

echo $PPID

if you need the command from this parent pid:

cat /proc/$PPID/comm

if you need the full command line (with all options):

cat /proc/$PPID/cmdline


  • $PPID is defined by the shell, it's the PID of the parent process
  • in /proc/, you have some dirs with the PID of each processes. Then, if you cat /proc/$PPID/comm, you echo the command name of the PID

Check man proc

  • 2
    This is the best answer. procfs is a kernel API. execute a command and parse the output is a nonsense.
    – Massimo
    Apr 9, 2019 at 5:28
  • 3
    This is also potentially the most portable, PPID is defined as part of the POSIX standard so any POSIX compliant shell should be setting this appropriately. See pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/utilities/…
    – RobV
    Apr 24, 2019 at 16:37

Using pstree by command name

Using pstree you can search by the child process name and get the Process ID (PID) along with the parents, grandparents and any children of the child process:

$ pstree -hp | grep sleep

In this case sleep is the child command and it's PID is 8414. It's parent ID is 841 and is called display-auto-brightness. The grandparent is a shell (sh) with a process ID of 839. The great-grandparent is cron with a process ID of 795. The great-great-grandparent is also cron with a process ID of 763.

If you want to search by Process ID of sleep instead of name you can use:

$ pstree -hp | grep 14653

Notice the sleep process ID changed to 14653. The parent (PID 841) sleeps for 1 minute, wakes up for a split second and then starts a new sleep command which gets a new process ID. This is another reason why searching for sleep is easier than searching by process ID.

This code was taken from: Automatically adjust display brightness based on sunrise and sunset and adapted to this question.

To see a nested chain all the way back to boot process use the PID instead of name:

$ pstree -aps 8541
systemd,1 splash fastboot kaslr
  └─cron,763 -f
      └─cron,795 -f
          └─sh,839 -c    /usr/local/bin/display-auto-brightness
              └─display-auto-br,841 /usr/local/bin/display-auto-brightness
                  └─sleep,8541 60

Note: Another minute has passed and the sleep command gets a new PID (8541).

  • In your example, this method wouldn't have worked for the cron process with PID 807.
    – Olorin
    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:38
  • @Olorin In both examples you could grep on 807 or cron and the same line would be retruned as well as more children if spawned. But the question was about finding the parent, not all the children. Mar 6, 2018 at 5:28
  • Exactly - how do you find the parent of PID 807 with that output? You can't, becvause it doesn't include the parent of 807.
    – Olorin
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:41
  • @Olorin The parent of cron is systemd which is PID 1. I don't think you can kill PID 1. Mar 6, 2018 at 11:09
  • I didn't say anything about killing anything. Just to clarify, now you're claiming that taking the first line of pstree or grepping for the command name will always give the the parent PID?
    – Olorin
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:14

ps -efj can also be used for the same.

For example,

> ps -efj | head
root         1     0     1     1  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:13 /sbin/init splash
root         2     0     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:00 [kthreadd]
root         3     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:02 [ksoftirqd/0]
root         5     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/0:0H]
root         7     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:06:44 [rcu_sched]
root         8     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:00 [rcu_bh]
root         9     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:00 [migration/0]
root        10     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:08 [watchdog/0]
root        11     2     0     0  0 Jul01 ?        00:00:08 [watchdog/1]

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