The current default database back-end used by the GRASS vector model is DBF (as of GRASS 6.5), however this is probably going to be changed (to SQLite) in GRASS 7. The DBF back-end works OK, however it tends to be very sensitive (i.e. breaks) when reserved words occur in column names or portions of a query. Complex UPDATE statements don’t work, and just about anything more complex than a simple SELECT statement usually results in an error. Switching to the SQLite (or Postgresql, etc.) back-end solves most of these problems.
Currently GRASS uses a single SQLite (file-based) database per mapset– convenient if you are interested in joining attribute tables between vectors; but not set-in-stone as the final approach that will be used by default in GRASS 7. Regardless, converting the back-end is a fairly simple matter. Finally, taking the time to convert to an SQLite or Postgresql back-end will undoubtably save you time and sanity if you ever find yourself working with vector+attribute data on a regular basis. Having access to a complete implementation of SQL can make extracting, summarizing, joining, and re-formatting (column names, types, etc.) tabular data much simpler than what is available in the DBF back-end. Also, there are several convenient graphical SQLite managers available, such as SQLite manager, SQLite data browser, and SQLite Admin.