Functional Components of Johnson Behavioral System Model

Focusing on the metaparadigm of nursing, it is important to determine such its aspects as a person, environment, health, and nursing. These aspects form the base for the functional components of any nursing theory and conceptual model (Fawcett, 2014, p. 337). Dorothy Johnson’s Behavioral System Model (JBHS) is one of the most widely referred conceptual frameworks used to explain the theory and practice in nursing.

The main principles declared by Johnson and used to discuss the theoretical framework of nursing are wholeness and order, stabilization, reorganization, hierarchic interaction, and dialectical contradiction (Parker & Smith, 2010, p. 105). From this point, it is necessary to discuss JBHS’s functional components in the context of the metaparadigm of nursing to understand Johnson’s vision and concepts.

The first functional component addressed in all theories and conceptual models is a person. The focus on a person is characteristic not only for theorists but also for practitioners who work to address the clients’ needs (Green, 2014, p. 35). In her model, Johnson applies the principle of wholeness to the discussion of the person component. Thus, a person is perceived by Johnson as a system composed of many subsystems. These subsystems are interdependent to make the whole, the person’s organism (Parker & Smith, 2010, p. 105). As a result, a person should be perceived as the whole and as a system. Furthermore, each person is a specific behavioral system composed of many behavioral subsystems (Parker & Smith, 2010, p. 107). While working with a client, a nurse should address this fact by referring to the idea of wholeness.

The next functional component is the environment. It is important to refer to internal and external environments while discussing the relations of a nurse and clients (Bigbee & Issel, 2012, p. 371). According to Johnson, the person as the behavioral system lives in the environment which affects the person’s behavior and actions because of constant interactions (Parker & Smith, 2010, p. 110). The concepts of internal and external environments are also developed in Johnson’s model to differentiate the person’s interactions influencing his or her behavior.

One more functional component is health. Different theorists discuss health in similar terms because this concept is basic for the nursing theory and practice (Bigbee & Issel, 2012, p. 372). Johnson discusses health with references to the functions performed by the person as a system. If the system’s functioning is effective, it is possible to speak about good health. Changes in the approach to the behavioral system and its relations with the environment are necessary when poor functioning is observed (Parker & Smith, 2010, p. 111). Thus, Johnson discusses health as the functional component referring to her vision of order, stabilization, and reorganization in affecting the work of the person’s system.

It is also important to focus on nursing as an aspect of the metaparadigm. While explaining the role of nursing, Johnson points at such two ideas as the complementary character of nursing concerning medicine and its distinctive contribution to health promotion (Parker & Smith, 2010, p. 112). From this perspective, a nurse works to support the client and contribute to improving his or her health because of the focus on wholeness and stabilization.

JBHS’s functional components fit the principles associated with the metaparadigm of nursing. However, the aspects of Johnson’s conceptual model influence the discussion of the functional components significantly.


Bigbee, J., & Issel, L. (2012). Conceptual models for population-focused public health nursing interventions and outcomes: The state of the art. Public Health Nursing, 29(4), 370-9.

Fawcett, J. (2014). Thoughts about conceptual models, theories, and quality improvement projects. Nursing Science Quarterly, 27(4), 336-9.

Green, H. (2014). Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher, 21(6), 34-8.

Parker, M., & Smith, M. (2010). Nursing theories and nursing practice. Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

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