Java OOPS Design Principles

1) Composition Vs Aggregation

When studying UML , one of the most important questions which comes to mid of a programmer is , What is the difference between Aggregation and Composition ?

Composition implies that the child objects share a lifespan with the parent. Aggregation doesn't. For example, a chess board is composed of chess squares - the chess squares don't really exist without the board. However, a car is an aggregation of parts - a car exhaust is still a car exhaust if it's not part of a car at the time.

Composition and Aggregation are types of associations. They are very closely related and in terms of programming there does not appear much difference.  I will try to explain the difference between these two by java code examples
Aggregation: the object exists outside the other, is created outside, so it is passed as an argument (for example) to the construtor. Ex: People – car. The car is create in a different context and than becomes a person property.
Composition: the object only exists, or only makes sense inside the other, as a part of the other. Ex: People – heart. You don’t create a heart and than passes it to a person.
Code example for aggregation:
// WebServer is aggregated of a HttpListener and a RequestProcessor
public class WebServer {
private HttpListener listener;
private RequestProcessor processor;
public WebServer(HttpListener listener, RequestProcessor processor) {
   this.listener = listener;
   this.processor = processor;
Code example for composition
// WebServer is an composition of HttpListener and RequestProcessor and controls  //their lifecycle
public class WebServer {
private HttpListener listener;
private RequestProcessor processor;
public WebServer() {
   this.listener = new HttpListener(80);
   this.processor = new RequestProcessor(“/www/root”);
In composition, whole has responsibility of preventing garbage collection of part.

2) Composition over Inheritance

composition over inheritance as it is more malleable / easy to modify later, but do not use a compose-always approach. With composition, it's easy to change behavior on the fly with Dependency Injection / Setters. Inheritance is more rigid as most languages do not allow you to derive from more than one type.. So the goose is more or less cooked once you derive from Class A.
My acid test for the above is:
  • Does TypeB want to expose the complete interface (all public methods no less) of TypeA such that TypeB can be used where TypeA is expected? Indicates Inheritance.
e.g. A Cessna biplane will expose the complete interface of an airplane, if not more. So that makes it fit to derive from Airplane.
  • Does TypeB only want only some/part of the behavior exposed by TypeA? Indicates need for Composition.
e.g. A Bird may need only the fly behavior of an Airplane. In this case, it makes sense to extract it out as an interface / class / both and make it a member of both classes.
This encourages the use of classes. Inheritance is one of the three tenets of OO design (inheritance, polymorphism, encapsulation).
class Person {
   String Title;
   String Name;
   Int Age

class Employee : Person {
   Int Salary;
   String Title;
This is inheritance at work. The Employee "is a" Person or inherits from Person. All inheritance relationships are "is-a" relationships. Employee also shadows the Title property from Person, meaning Employee.Title will return the Title for the Employee not the Person.


Composition is favoured over inheritance. To put it very simply you would have:
class Person {
   String Title;
   String Name;
   Int Age;

   public Person(String title, String name, String age) {
      this.Title = title;
      this.Name = name;
      this.Age = age;
class Employee {
   Int Salary;
   private Person person;

   public Employee(Person p, Int salary) {
       this.person = p;
       this.Salary = salary;

Person johnny = new Person ("Mr.", "John", 25);
Employee john = new Employee (johnny, 50000);
Composition is typically "has a" or "uses a" relationship. Here the Employee class has a Person. It does not inherit from Person but instead gets the Person object passed to it, which is why it "has a" Person.

Composition over Inheritance

Now say you want to create a Manager type so you end up with:
class Manager : Person, Employee {
This example will work fine, however, what if Person and Employee both declared Title? Should Manager.Title return "Manager of Operations" or "Mr."? Under composition this ambiguity is better handled:
Class Manager {
   public Title;
   public Manager(Person p, Employee e)
      this.Title = e.Title;
The Manager object is composed as an Employee and a Person. The Title behaviour is taken from employee. This explicit composition removes ambiguity among other things and you'll encounter fewer bugs.

3) Association Vs Aggregation Vs Composition

Association represents the ability of one instance to send a message to another instance. This is typically implemented with a reference instance variable, although it might also be implemented as a method argument, or the creation of a local variable.

Aggregation [...] is the typical whole/part relationship. This is exactly the same as an association with the exception that instances cannot have cyclic aggregation relationships (i.e. a part cannot contain its whole).

Composition [...] is exactly like Aggregation except that the lifetime of the 'part' is controlled by the 'whole'. This control may be direct or transitive. That is, the 'whole' may take direct responsibility for creating or destroying the 'part', or it may accept an already created part, and later pass it on to some other whole that assumes responsibility for it.


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