What is difference in functionality between drupal_render() and drupal_render_children() ? When I used drupal_render for $form derived as follows from hook_theme

function hook_form_alter($form,&$form_state,$form_id) {
if ($form_id == 'content_type_a') {
  $form['#theme'][] = 'custom_content_type_a_node_form'; 


function hook_theme() {
  return array(
    'custom_content_type_a_node_form' => array(
       'render element' => 'form',


Then inside a THEMENAME_custom_content_type_a_node_form

function THEMENAME_custom_content_type_a_node_form(&$variables) {
$output = '';
$form = $variables['form'];

$output = <div>Some HTML code</div>;

$output .= drupal_render($form);

return $output;

While using drupal_render in the above function the page was going into loop and function was being called by endlessly
But when I replaced that with drupal_render_children($form) it did not go into an endless loop
What is the reason for such a behavior?


drupal_render() renders an item. Rendering it contains theming it. Look into function's code, there is this line:

// Call the element's #theme function if it is set

So placing render inside theming function is bound to make a loop. drupal_render_children() exist to break this loop - it renders element's children only, so you can print element itself in theming function and still have children themed by their own proper functions.

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  • So is there a way out for using drupal_render instead of drupal_render_children? – harshal Dec 27 '13 at 10:27
  • 1
    @harshal nope, by design drupal_render will always call theming function, so cannot be used in it. Of course you could hack around it in a dozen ways, but it would take more work than simply switching to drupal_render_children and printing element itself manually. – Mołot Dec 27 '13 at 10:29

Actually this is a bug that is still haunting us in Drupal 8:

And likely it could still be backported to Drupal 7.

However currently using drupal_render_children() is the only way.

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