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Referential Integrity

Referential integrity refers to the accuracy and consistency of data within a relationship. In relationships, data is linked between two or more tables. This is achieved by having the foreign key (in the associated table) reference a primary key value (in the primary – or parent – table).

(Above) An example of a database that has not enforced referential integrity. In this example, there is a foreign key (artist_id) value in the album table that references a non-existent artist — in other words there is a foreign key value with no corresponding primary key value in the referenced table.

Alternative Explanation

Referential integrity refers to the accuracy and consistency of data within a relationship.

In relationships, data is linked between two or more tables. This is achieved by having the foreign key (in the associated table) reference a primary key value (in the primary – or parent – table). Because of this, we need to ensure that data on both sides of the relationship remain intact.

So, referential integrity requires that, whenever a foreign key value is used it must reference a valid, existing primary key in the parent table.

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