Definitions

Referential integrity

Referential integrity

Referential integrity in a relational database is consistency between coupled tables. Referential integrity is usually enforced by the combination of a primary key or candidate key (alternate key) and a foreign key. For referential integrity to hold, any field in a table that is declared a foreign key can contain only values from a parent table's primary key or a candidate key. For instance, deleting a record that contains a value referred to by a foreign key in another table would break referential integrity. The relational database management system (RDBMS) enforces referential integrity, normally either by deleting the foreign key rows as well to maintain integrity, or by returning an error and not performing the delete. Which method is used would be determined by the referential integrity constraint, as defined in the data dictionary.

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