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Dorothy E.

Behavioral System
Born August 21, 1919 in Savannah, Georgia

Received her B.S.N. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee


M.P.H. from Harvard University in Boston (1948)

Johnson was proudest of the 1975 Faculty Award from graduate


1977- Lulu HassenplugDistinguished Achievement Award from the

California Nurses’ Association

1981- Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Award for Excellence in

Died in February 1999 at the age of 80

Major Concepts and Definitions
Behavior is the output of intraorganismic structures and processes
as they are coordinated and articulated by and responsive to
changes in sensory stimulation.

System is a whole that functions as a whole by of interdependence of

its parts.

Behavioral system encompasses the patterned, repetitive, and

purposeful ways of behaving.
v The patient is a behavioral system with 7 interrelated subsystems.

v 2 major components of the behavioral system:

1. the patient

2. nursing
Subsystem is a minisystem with its own particular goal and function
that can be maintained as long as its relationship to other
subsystems or the environment is not disturbed.

q Attachment or affiliative subsystem: Functions are attainment of

the security needed for survival as well as social inclusion, intimacy,
and the formation and maintenance of social bonds.

q Dependency subsystem: Functions are succouring behavior that call
for a response of nurturance as well as approval, attention or
recognition, and physical assistance.

q Ingestive subsystem: Function is appetite satisfaction, with regard

to when, how, why, how much, and under what conditions the
individual eats, which is governed by social and psychological
considerations as well as biologic requirements for food and fluids.

q Eliminative subsystem: Function is elimination, with regard to when,
how, and under what conditions the individual eliminates waste.

q Sexual subsystem: Functions are procreation and gratification, with

regard to behaviors dependent upon the individual's biologic sex,
including, but not limited to, courting and mating.

q Aggressive subsystem: Function is protection and preservation of
self and society.

q Achievement subsystem: Function is mastery or control of some

aspect of self or environment, with regard to intellectual, physical,
creative, mechanical, social, and care-taking (of children, spouse,
home) skills.

v Each subsystem can be described and analyzed in terms of structure
and functional requirements.

v The 4 structural elements:

1. drive or goal

2. set or predisposition to act

3. choice or alternatives for action

4. behavior
v the 3 functional requirements:

1. Protection
2. Nurturance
3. Stimulation
Equilibrium is defined as stabilized but more or less transitory,
resting state in which the individual is in harmony within himself
and the environment.

Tension is the state of being stretched or strained and can be

viewed as an end product of a disturbance in the equilibrium.

Stressor is an internal or external stimuli that produce tension and

result in a degree of instability.
Major Assumptions:
Nursing is an external force acting to preserve the organization of
the patient’s behavior by means of imposing regulatory mechanisms
or by providing resources while the patient is under stress.

An art and science, it supplies external assistance both before and
during system balance disturbance and therefore

requires knowledge of order, disorder and control.

Person as a behavioral system with patterned, repetitive, and

purposeful ways of behaving that link the person to the
environment. A person is a system of interdependent parts that
requires some regularity and adjustment to maintain balance.

Health as an elusive, dynamic state influenced by biological,
psychological, and social factors. Health is a desired value by
health professionals and focuses on the person rather than the

Environment consists of all the factors that are not part of the of
the individual’s behavioral system, but influence the system, some
of which can be manipulated by the nurse to achieve the health
goal for the patient.