methods (version 3.6.2)

validObject: Test the Validity of an Object


validObject() tests the validity of object related to its class definition; specifically, it checks that all slots specified in the class definition are present and that the object in the slot is from the required class or a subclass of that class.

If the object is valid, TRUE is returned; otherwise, an error is generated, reporting all the validity failures encountered. If argument test is TRUE, the errors are returned as a character vector rather than generating an error.

When an object from a class is initialized, the default method for initialize() calls validObject.

A class definition may have a validity method, set by a call to the function setValidity, in the package or environment that defines the class (or via the validity argument to setClass). The method should be a function of one object that returns TRUE or a character-string description of the non-validity. If such a method exists, it will be called from validObject and any strings from failure will be included in the result or the error message. Any validity methods defined for superclasses (from the contains= argument to setClass), will also be called.


validObject(object, test = FALSE, complete = FALSE)

setValidity(Class, method, where = topenv(parent.frame()) )




any object, but not much will happen unless the object's class has a formal definition.


logical; if TRUE and validity fails, the function returns a vector of strings describing the problems. If test is FALSE (the default) validity failure generates an error.


logical; if TRUE, validObject is called recursively for each of the slots. The default is FALSE.


the name or class definition of the class whose validity method is to be set.


a class definition object, as from getClassDef.


a validity method; that is, either NULL or a function of one argument (object). Like validObject, the function should return TRUE if the object is valid, and one or more descriptive strings if any problems are found. Unlike validObject, it should never generate an error.


an environment to store the modified class definition. Should be omitted, specifically for calls from a package that defines the class. The definition will be stored in the namespace of the package.


validObject returns TRUE if the object is valid. Otherwise a vector of strings describing problems found, except that if test is FALSE, validity failure generates an error, with the corresponding strings in the error message.

Validity methods

A validity method must be a function of one argument; formally, that argument should be named object. If the argument has a different name, setValidity makes the substitution but in obscure cases that might fail, so it's wiser to name the argument object.

A good method checks all the possible errors and returns a character vector citing all the exceptions found, rather than returning after the first one. validObject will accumulate these errors in its error message or its return value.

Note that validity methods do not have to check validity of superclasses: validObject calls such methods explicitly.


Validity testing takes place ‘bottom up’, checking the slots, then the superclasses, then the object's own validity method, if there is one.

For each slot and superclass, the existence of the specified class is checked. For each slot, the object in the slot is tested for inheritance from the corresponding class. If complete is TRUE, validObject is called recursively for the object in the slot.

Then, for each of the classes that this class extends (the ‘superclasses’), the explicit validity method of that class is called, if one exists. Finally, the validity method of object's class is called, if there is one.


Chambers, John M. (2016) Extending R, Chapman & Hall. (Chapters 9 and 10.)

See Also

setClass; class '>classRepresentation.


Run this code
          slots = c(x="numeric", y = "numeric"))
t1 <- new("track", x=1:10, y=sort(stats::rnorm(10)))
## A valid "track" object has the same number of x, y values
validTrackObject <- function(object) {
    if(length(object@x) == length(object@y)) TRUE
    else paste("Unequal x,y lengths: ", length(object@x), ", ",
               length(object@y), sep="")
## assign the function as the validity method for the class
setValidity("track", validTrackObject)
## t1 should be a valid "track" object
## Now we do something bad
t2 <- t1
t2@x <- 1:20
## This should generate an error
# }
# }
setClass("trackCurve", contains = "track",
         slots = c(smooth = "numeric"))

## all superclass validity methods are used when validObject
## is called from initialize() with arguments, so this fails
# }
trynew("trackCurve", t2)
# }
setClass("twoTrack", slots = c(tr1 = "track", tr2 ="track"))

## validity tests are not applied recursively by default,
## so this object is created (invalidly)
tT  <- new("twoTrack", tr2 = t2)

## A stricter test detects the problem
# }
try(validObject(tT, complete = TRUE))
# }

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