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referential integrity
Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2002 

A feature provided by relational database management systems (RDBMS's) that prevents users or applications from entering inconsistent data. Most RDBMS's have various referential integrity rules that you can apply when you create a relationship between two tables.

For example, suppose Table B has a foreign key that points to a field in Table A. Referential integrity would prevent you from adding a record to Table B that cannot be linked to Table A. In addition, the referential integrity rules might also specify that whenever you delete a record from Table A, any records in Table B that are linked to the deleted record will also be deleted. This is called cascading delete. Finally, the referential integrity rules could specify that whenever you modify the value of a linked field in Table A, all records in Table B that are linked to it will also be modified accordingly. This is called cascading update.

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