Object-Oriented Programming


Michael L. Collard, Ph.D.

Department of Computer Science, The University of Akron


degree of interdependence between software modules; a measure of how closely connected two routines or modules are; the strength of the relationships between modules.

  • External measure of the relationships of a class to other classes


  • Dependency between elements

  • Degree or reliance between elements

  • Increasing cohesion may lead to more coupling (Why?)

  • Entropy of systems and designs increases coupling

  • Coupling needs to be limited and controlled

Why is Coupling Important?

  • Perhaps the most important characteristics of a system

  • Effects development path

  • Effects how we partition the system for testing

  • Effects how much reuse is possible

  • Great effect on the complexity of a system

Coupling Goal

  • Minimize external interaction (extramural) with other elements (coupling)

  • For classes: Minimize and reduce relationships with other classes

States of Coupling

  • tightly coupled High degree of coupling

    • Very difficult to develop/test/maintain/use
  • loosely coupled Low degree of coupling

    • Much easier to develop/test/maintain/use
  • decoupled Classes with zero to minimal coupling

    • Very easy to develop/test/maintain/use

    • Common refactoring activity

Types of Coupling

  • Message Coupling (very best)

  • Data Coupling (best)

  • Stamp Coupling

  • Control Coupling

  • Common Coupling

  • Content Coupling (worst)

Content Coupling

  • A module directly references the content of another module:

    • One module p modifies a statement of another module q

    • One module p references or alters local data of another module q

    • One module p branches into another module q

Content Coupling (cont)

  • Content coupled modules are inextricably interlinked

    • Change to module q requires a change to module p including recompilation

    • Reusing module p requires using module q

  • Exposing data members with public access is a form of this

Common Coupling

  • Using global variables, i.e., global coupling

  • All modules have read/write access to a piece of global data

  • Functions exchange data using the global data instead of arguments

Common Coupling Example




Common Coupling (cont)

  • Single function with write access where all other functions only have read access is not common coupling

  • To determine why a variable has a particular state have to examine all functions

  • Side effects, so all the code in a function needs to be examined

  • Function is exposed to more data then is needed

Control Coupling

  • Client passes a flag or command that explicitly controls what the called code is doing

  • Independent reuse is not possible

  • Client should pass data and leave control path decisions private to a module

Stamp Coupling

  • One module passes more data then needed to another module

  • Often involves records (structs) with lots of fields

  • Entire record passed, but only a few fields are used

  • Efficiency considerations?

Data Coupling

  • One module only passed the data needed by the other module

  • Only required data passed from one module to another
  • All arguments are homogenous data items
    • simple data type
    • complex data type, but the client code uses all parts
  • Allows for comprehension, reuse, maintenance, security, etc.

Message Coupling

  • Client code passes parameters via a non-private data format
  • Most flexible, since any language or tool can generate the data
  • Possible to store or cache requests
  • All arguments are homogenous data items
    • simple data type
    • complex data type, with all parts used
  • Allows for comprehension, reuse, maintenance, security, …
  • Potential performance overhead (?)


  • Tightly Coupled
    • Change in one module leads to changes in other modules
    • Difficult to test/reuse individual parts
    • Difficult to assemble separately
    • Difficult to add additional feature/use of the system
  • Loosely Coupled
    • Allows independent changes to modules
    • Easily test/reuse individual parts
    • Easier to assemble separately

Coupling Observations

  • If there is no way to make the modules have loose coupling, perhaps they could be combined (or packaged together), or used in precise ways

  • Subclass Coupling - Between derived and base class

Advantages of Tightly-Coupled Modules I

  • Obtain only the data that is needed. E.g., parsing source code for a specific query

  • Directly use the data with no need to translate to/from a data format

  • Layers can be skipped that are not needed. E.g., ISO 7-level network model vs. TCP/IP

  • All the features of a specific API can be used. E.g., writing code for mySQL instead of a generic database format (ODBC)

Advantages of Tightly-Coupled Modules II

  • Decoupling leads to abstractions, which can make the programming task more difficult than direct use

  • In general, tightly-coupled modules can be more efficient, but at a great cost of flexibility