Chapter 21. Example: Parent/Child

One of the first things that new users want to do with Hibernate is to model a parent/child type relationship. There are two different approaches to this. The most convenient approach, especially for new users, is to model both Parent and Child as entity classes with a <one-to-many> association from Parent to Child. The alternative approach is to declare the Child as a <composite-element>. The default semantics of a one-to-many association in Hibernate are much less close to the usual semantics of a parent/child relationship than those of a composite element mapping. We will explain how to use a bidirectional one-to-many association with cascades to model a parent/child relationship efficiently and elegantly.

21.1. A note about collections

Hibernate collections are considered to be a logical part of their owning entity and not of the contained entities. Be aware that this is a critical distinction that has the following consequences:
  • When you remove/add an object from/to a collection, the version number of the collection owner is incremented.
  • If an object that was removed from a collection is an instance of a value type (e.g. a composite element), that object will cease to be persistent and its state will be completely removed from the database. Likewise, adding a value type instance to the collection will cause its state to be immediately persistent.
  • Conversely, if an entity is removed from a collection (a one-to-many or many-to-many association), it will not be deleted by default. This behavior is completely consistent; a change to the internal state of another entity should not cause the associated entity to vanish. Likewise, adding an entity to a collection does not cause that entity to become persistent, by default.
Adding an entity to a collection, by default, merely creates a link between the two entities. Removing the entity will remove the link. This is appropriate for all sorts of cases. However, it is not appropriate in the case of a parent/child relationship. In this case, the life of the child is bound to the life cycle of the parent.