The Java EE 6 Tutorial, Volume I

The Joined Subclass Strategy

In this strategy, which corresponds to InheritanceType.JOINED, the root of the class hierarchy is represented by a single table, and each subclass has a separate table that only contains those fields specific to that subclass. That is, the subclass table does not contain columns for inherited fields or properties. The subclass table also has a column or columns that represent its primary key, which is a foreign key to the primary key of the superclass table.

This strategy provides good support for polymorphic relationships, but requires one or more join operations to be performed when instantiating entity subclasses. This may result in poor performance for extensive class hierarchies. Similarly, queries that cover the entire class hierarchy require join operations between the subclass tables, resulting in decreased performance.

Some Java Persistence API providers, including the default provider in the Enterprise Server, require a discriminator column in the table that corresponds to the root entity when using the joined subclass strategy. If you are not using automatic table creation in your application, make sure the database table is set up correctly for the discriminator column defaults, or use the @DiscriminatorColumn annotation to match your database schema. For information on discriminator columns, see The Single Table per Class Hierarchy Strategy.