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 individual  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 and  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

Fundamentals Theorists

Sister Callista Roy

Roy’s Adaptation Model

Sister Callista Roy’s adaptation model, originating in 1970, is widely used by nurse educators, researchers, and practitioners. Roy focuses on the individual as a biopsychosocial adaptive system. Both the individual and the environment are sources of stimuli that require modification to promote adaptation, an ongoing purposive response. Adaptive responses contribute to health, the process of being and becoming integrated; ineffective or maladaptive responses do not.

As an  open system, an individual recieves inputs or stimuli from both the self and the environment. Roy identifies three classes of stimuli:

  1. Focal stimulus – the internal or external stimulus most immediately confronting the person and contributing to behavior
  2. Contextual stimuli – all other internal or external stimuli present
  3. Residual stimuli – beliefs, attitudes, or traits having an indeterminate effect on the person’s behavior but whose effects are no validated.

Roy’s adaptive system consists of two interrelated subsystems:

  1. The primary subsystem – is a functional or internal control process that consists of the regulator and the cognator. The regulator processes input automatically through neural-chemical-endocrine channels. The cognator processes input through cognitive pathways, such as perception, information processing, learning, judgment, and emotions. Roy views the regulator and cognator as methods of coping.
  2. The secondary subsystem – is an effector system that manifests cognator and regulator activity. It consists of four adaptive modes:
  • The physiologic mode involves the body’s basic physiologic needs and ways of adapting in regard to fluid and electrolytes, activity and rest, circulation ans oxygen, nutrition and elimination, protection, the senses, and neurologic and endocrine function.
  • The self-concept mode includes two components: the physical self, which involves sensation and body image, and the personal self, which involves self-ideal, self-consistency, and the moral-ethical self.
  • The role function mode is determined by the need for social integrity and refers to the performance of duties based on given positions within the society.
  • The interdependence mode involves one’s relations with significant others and support systems that provide help, affection, and attention.

Kozier, Barbara Fundamentals of Nursing 5th edition

Addison-Wesley Publishing  Company, Inc. pp.51-52