Domain Object One-To-One Relationship In Grails GORM and SQL Relational Database

This is following post series about ‘Domain Object Relationships in Grails GORM and SQL Relational Databases‘ where we look at the details how the relationships are build in GORM with how physically structrured in DB while cascading and direction addressed. This post is divided into 4 section as following:

Each section contains the following:

  • Class Diagram
  • Code Snippet
  • ER Diagram with Tables snippet
Summary: There is the same parent-child database structure with foreign key constrain for all 4 different versions of One-to-One relationship. We learn that cascading and direction is enforced solely by GORM without no changes in tables structure.

1. One-To-One Unidirectional Relationship with No-Cascading

(a) Class Diagram

In our example, we have object Book and Author and the one-to-one relationship is where Book has one Author as displayed in the following class diagram:

(b) Code Snippet

So, to have One-To-One unidirectional relationship without cascading for GORM the code looks as following:

By declaring Author in the Book class it becomes unidirectional no-cascading one-to-one relationship.

(c) ER Diagram with Tables snippet

Here is how it physically structured in SQL Rational DB:

As we can see ‘Author’ becomes a child for entity -‘ Book’ by having foreign key as ‘author_id’ part of Book table. Interesting to note that foreign key name is created by concatenation of  name of the Entity +  ‘__’ +  primary key(i.e. author_id)

2. One-To-One Unidirectional With Cascading

(a) Class Diagram

(b) Code Snippet

In order to have cascading enforced by GORM, it needs to be told GORM that ‘Author’ is a child of ‘Book’. Here is how its done:

So,  adding “static belongsTo = Book” lets GORM know that ‘Author’ is a child and needs to be cascaded whenever parent – ‘Book’ deleted, saved.

(c) ER Diagram with Tables snippet

There are no changes in the physical table structure. GORM handles cascading. In short, to have unidirectional and cascading relationship you have two things – declaring child relationship as is  ‘Author’ in the Book entity(green) and letting GORM know its a child in the ‘Author’ entity(red)

3. One-To-One Bidirectional Cascading

(a) Class Diagram

Here is our updated class diagram showing bidirectional relationship:

(b) Code Snippet

Here is the code to have One-to-One bidirectional cascading relationship

The green  code from the code snippet above is what was for making relationship unidirectional. The red code is what changed and turned it into bidirectional while keeping cascading. In short, by making variable ‘belongsTo’  turns the relationship bidirectional

(c) ER Diagram and Tables snippet

There are no change in DB structure. This is telling that just like cascading as well as direcretion –  bidirection and unidirection is solely enorced by GORM and there is no specific changes in SQL DB.

4. One-to-One Bidirectional No Cascading

To enable no cascading, the following code need to added in Book class:

static mapping = {
        author cascade: "none"

This will disable any cascading. Some times you may need disable cascade on Deletes only or some other way. These are some alternative cascading options –

  • none
  • save
  • update
  • save-update
  • delete
  • all
  • all-delete-orphan

Domain Object Relationships in Grails GORM And SQL Relational Databases

When doing re-factoring  for applications with SQL Databases, it may be helpful to know the details how GORM creates different relationships and how those relationships are physically structured in the DB. This post starts the post series to cover – One-To-One, One-To-Many, Many-To-Many and Inheritance for Domain objects relationships. we hope to answer following questions

  • How these relationships are physically structured in DB?
  • How these relationships  are implemented in respect to cascading and direction(bidirectional vs unidirectional) and whether it changes DB structure?

Here is summary:

Inheritance Relationship

Summarized – Quick Reference

Relationship Unidirectional Bidirectional




  Not Possible (see post)




Inheritance img