Using Method Constraints in Type Hierarchies
Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 8
The Java EE Tutorial

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Using Method Constraints in Type Hierarchies

If you add validation constraints to objects in an inheritance hierarchy, take special care to avoid unintended errors when using subtypes.

For a given type, subtypes should be able to be substituted without encountering errors. For example, if you have a Person class and an Employee subclass that extends Person, you should be able to use Employee instances wherever you might use Person instances. If Employee overrides a method in Person by adding method parameter constraints, code that works correctly with Person objects may throw validation exceptions with Employee objects.

The following code shows an incorrect use of method parameter constraints within a class hierarchy:

public class Person {
...
  public void setPhone(String phone) { ... }
}

public class Employee extends Person {
...
  @Override
  public void setPhone(@Verified String phone) { ... }
}

By adding the @Verified constraint to Employee.setPhone, parameters that were valid with Person.setPhone will not be valid with Employee.setPhone. This is called strengthening the preconditions (that is, the method parameters) of a subtype’s method. You may not strengthen the preconditions of subtype method calls.

Similarly, the return values from method calls should not be weakened in subtypes. The following code shows an incorrect use of constraints on method return values in a class hierarchy:

public class Person {
...
  @Verified
  public USPhoneNumber getPhone() { ... }
}

public class Employee extends Person {
...
  @Override
  public USPhoneNumber getPhone() { ... }
}

In this example, the Employee.getPhone method removes the @Verified constraint on the return value. Return values that would be not pass validation when calling Person.getEmail are allowed when calling Employee.getPhone. This is called weakening the postconditions (that is, return values) of a subtype. You may not weaken the postconditions of a subtype method call.

If your type hierarchy strengthens the preconditions or weakens the postconditions of subtype method calls, a javax.validation.ConstraintDeclarationException will be thrown by the Bean Validation runtime.

Classes that implement several interfaces that each have the same method signature, known as parallel types, need to be aware of the constraints applied to the interfaces that they implement to avoid strengthening the preconditions. For example:

public interface PaymentService {
  void processOrder(Order order, double amount);
...
}

public interface CreditCardPaymentService {
  void processOrder(@NotNull Order order, @NotNull double amount);
...
}

public class MyPaymentService implements PaymentService,
        CreditCardPaymentService {

  @Override
  public void processOrder(Order order, double amount) { ... }
...
}

In this case, MyPaymentService has the constraints from the processOrder method in CreditCardPaymentService, but client code that calls PaymentService.processOrder doesn’t expect these constraints. This is another example of strengthening the preconditions of a subtype and will result in a ConstraintDeclarationException.

Rules for Using Method Constraints in Type Hierarchies

The following rules define how method validation constraints should be used in type hierarchies.

  • Do not add method parameter constraints to overridden or implemented methods in a subtype.

  • Do not add method parameter constraints to overridden or implemented methods in a subtype that was originally declared in several parallel types.

  • You may add return value constraints to an overridden or implemented method in a subtype.


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