Referential integrity is a property of data which, when satisfied, requires every value of one attribute (column) of a relation (table) to exist as a value of another attribute in a different (or the same) relation (table).
Less formally, and in relational databases: 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. Some relational database management systems (RDBMS) can enforce 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 may be determined by a referential integrity constraint defined in a data dictionary.
- Entity integrity
- Propagation constraint
- Dangling pointer
- Domain/key normal form
- Declarative Referential Integrity