Dorothy E. Johnson

Dorothy E. Johnson
Dorothy E. Johnson

Behavioral System Model (1959,1968,1974,1980)


A behavioral system composed of seven subsystems: affiliative, achievement, dependence, aggressive, eliminative, ingestive, and sexual.


Consists of all factors that are not part of the individual’s behavioral system but that influence the system and some of which can be manipulated by the nurse to achieve the health goal of the client. The individual links to and interacts with the environment.


Health is an elusive, dynamic state of influenced by biologic, psychologic, and social factors. Health is reflected by the organization, interdependence, and integration of the subsystem. Human attempt to achieve a balance in this system; this balance leads to functional behavior. A lack of balance in the structural or functional requirements of the subsystem leads to a poor health.


An external regulatory force that acts to preserve the organization and integration of the client’s behavior at an optimal level under those conditions in which the behavior constitutes a threat to physical or social health or in which illness is found.


Johnson’s Behavioral System Model

Dorothy Johnson used her observations of behavior over many years to formulate a general theory of man as a behavioral system. The theory was originally presented orally in 1968 but was not published until 1980. Johnson defines a system as a whole that functions as a whole by virtue of the interdependence of its parts. Individuals strive to maintian stability and balance in these parts through adjustments and adaptations to the forces that impinge on them. A behavioral system is patterned, repetitive, and purposeful.

Johnson’s key concepts describe the individualĀ  as a behavioral system composed of seven subsystems:

1. The attachment-affiliative subsystem provides survival and security. Its consequences are social inclusion, intimacy, and the formation andĀ  maintenance of a strong social bond.

2. The dependency subsystem promotes helping behavior that calls for a nurturing response. Its consequences are approval, attention or recognition, and p[physical assistance.

3. The ingestive subsystem satisfies appetite. It is governed by social and psychologic considerations as well as biologic.

4. The eliminative subsystem excrete body wastes.

5. The sexual subsystem functions dually for procreation and gratification.

6. The achievement subsystem attempts to manipulate the environment. It controls or masters an aspect of the self or environment to some standard of excellence.

7. The aggressive subsystem protects and preserves the self and society within the limits imposed by society.

Each of the above subsystem has the same functional requirements: protection, nurturance, and stimulation. The subsystems’ responses are developed through motivation, experience, and learning and are influenced by biopsychosocial factors.

Other concepts associated with Johnson’s model are equilibrium, a stabilized more or less transitory resting state in which the individual is in harmony with the self and the environment; tension, a state of being stretched or strained; and stressors, internal or external stimuli that produce tension ans result in a degree of instability.



Kozier, Barbara Fundamental of Nursing 5th edition

Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc 1998 p.49