ActiveJDBC provides two methods for deleting with cascade: deleteCascade() and deleteCascadeShallow().

Method deleteCascade() is deep but not high performance, while deleteCascadeShallow()is fast, but not deep (hence the name). Please, see below for more information.

Method deleteCascade()

ActiveJDBC class Model provides a method:

This method deletes current record from associated table, as well as children. Deletes current model and all of its child and many to many associations. This is not a high performance method, as it will load every row into a model instance before deleting, effectively calling (N + 1) per table queries to the DB, one to select all the associated records (per table), and one delete statement per record. Use it for small data sets.

In cases of simple one to many and polymorphic associations, things are as expected, a parent is deleted an all children are deleted as well, but in more complicated cases, this method will walk entire tree of associated tables, sometimes coming back to the same one where it all started. It will follow associations of children and their associations too; consider this a true cascade delete with all implications (circular dependencies, referential integrity constraints, potential performance bottlenecks, etc.)

Imagine a situation where you have DOCTORS and PATIENTS in many to many relationship (with DOCTORS_PATIENTS table as a join table), and in addition PATIENTS and PRESCRIPTIONS in one to many relationship, where a patient might have many prescriptions:


id first_name last_name discipline
1 John Kentor otolaryngology
2 Hellen Hunt dentistry
3 John Druker oncology


id first_name last_name
1 Jim Cary
2 John Carpenter
3 John Doe


id doctor_id patient_id
1 1 2
2 1 1
3 2 1
4 3 3


id name patient_id
1 Viagra 1
2 Prozac 1
3 Valium 2
4 Marijuana (medicinal) 2
5 CML treatment 3

Lets start with a simple example, Doctor John Druker. This doctor has one patient John Doe, and the patient has one prescription. So, when an instance of this doctor model is issued statement:

the result is as expected: the DOCTORS:ID=3 is deleted, DOCTORS_PATIENTS:ID=4 is deleted, PATIENTS:ID=3 is deleted and PRESCRIPTIONS:ID=5 is deleted.

However, when doctor Kentor(#1) is deleted, the results are devastating. The following records are also deleted:

DOCTORS_PATIENTS:ID=1, 2 - these are links to patients PATIENTS:ID=1,2 these are patients themselves

PRESCRIPTIONS:ID=1,2,3,4 - these are prescriptions of patients 1 and 2

But, in addition, since this is a many to many relationship, deleting patients 1 and 2 results in also deleting doctor Hellen Hunt(#2), since she is a doctor of patient Jim Cary(#1), deleting all corresponding join links from table DOCTORS_PATIENTS. So, deleting doctor Kentor, deleted most all records from related tables, leaving only these records in place:


Had doctor Hellen Hunt(#2) had more patients, it would delete them too, and so on. This goes a long way to say that it could be easy to be tangled up in web of associations, so be careful out there.

After deletion, this instance becomes frozen() and cannot be used anymore until thaw() is called.

Method deleteCascadeExcept()

The method deleteCascade() will navigate to all relationships of a model and their relationships, etc. This can lead to some unexpected results - you might find that it deleted some important records. If this is the case, use method deleteCascadeExcept(Association ... associations).

Lets say you have models: Article, Comment and Tag such that Article has many Comments, and Comment has many Tags.

This method then allows to skip some associations of a model from following:

In the example above, the comment will be deleted along with its tags, but the article will stay intact.

Method deleteCascadeShallow()

Deletes current record from associated table, as well as its immediate children. This is a high performance method because it does not walk through a chain of child dependencies like deleteCascade() does, but rather issues one DELETE statement per child dependency table. Also, its semantics are a bit different between that deleteCascade(). It only deletes current record and immediate children, but not their children (no grand kinds are dead as a result :)).

One to many and polymorphic associations and deleteCascadeShallow()

The current record is deleted, as well as immediate children.

Many to many associations and deleteCascadeShallow()

The current record is deleted, as well as links in a join table. Nothing else is deleted.

Interactions with databases

The above features are strictly the framework and not the database behavior. If the database schema has ON DELETE CASCADE or other constraints, then they will work independently. The main mantra of JavaLite is to not implement what is already implemented by a low level layer.

There are implications to understand here. For example, you have tables USERS and ADDRESSES where a single user may have more than one address. The ADDRESSES table also has an ON DELETE CASCADE FK defined.
If you delete a user, the database, not the framework will be responsible to delete child records.

This might create an unpleasant situation:

At this point, you do not have the corresponding records in the ADDRESSES table, but they are still referenced in memory. If you try to change and save any of the address models, you will get an exception from the database, since their IDs are now missing.

Caching in ActiveJDBC works at a model level. This means that in the scenario above, you might have stale records in cache.

If ActiveJDBC caching is enabled, it is advised to purge corresponding models just in case:

Developers need to be aware of this behavior.

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