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Health-Based and Non-Nursing Theories in Examples


The health of families and communities is one of the main priorities for nurses of different types. However, non-nursing theories may also have a significant effect on family and community behavior. This paper will show an example of a health-based theory and a non-nursing theory, their application to health and behavior, strengths and limitations, as well as how they integrate the nursing process.

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Systems theory is one of the more commonly used theories related to community and family health. It has four primary concepts that are core to its use. The first states that a family system belongs to a larger supersystem that contains a multitude of other systems. For example, a family that consists of a husband and wife belongs to a larger system of uncles, aunts, and other relatives. The second concept states that the family is greater when it is united, rather than separated. To fully understand the family, the researcher needs to examine it as a whole, rather than as individuals because their connections are just as important.

The third concept describes how a change in one family member can have an effect on all family members. A son who becomes addicted to drugs would elicit worry and deep concern of all the immediate members of the family, and perhaps its supersystem as well. The fourth core concept is the ability of families to balance change and stability. The balance may shift with new changes occurring, but eventually, new stability develops. The fifth and last concept states that family behaviors should be understood by using a circular point of view. Since every member of the family affects another member, it is wrong to approach their behaviors in a linear fashion (Real et al., 2018; Wright & Leahey, 2012).

Cybernetics is a theory of communication and control. Both of these elements are present in every family. In the context of family, it consists of two key concepts. The first is that families are able to self-regulate their behaviors. As it was previously stated, the balance of change and stability is often maintained by the family. This process occurs due to the looped nature of behavior control that each family member performs on their relatives. The second concept is that feedback processes that alter behavior may occur simultaneously on multiple levels of family systems. A fight between two relatives may leave them unable to talk to each other, while at the same time it may be caused by a conflict in the superstructure of their extended families (Haefner, 2014; Wright & Leahey, 2012).

Application to Family Health and Behavior

The systems theory is very valuable in the field of family health. The family superstructure and subsystems are often analyzed by nurses before starting their interventions due to the variability in the boundaries between family systems. When utilizing the wholeness of the family, nurses can approach one member to provide better assistance to another. If the intervention is successful, its positive effects then spread to the other members of the family (Real et al., 2018).

Cybernetics primarily affects the behavior of the family, and for nurses, they may be used for enhanced awareness of issues families experience. While it may seem that one person is having a negative effect on the behavior of others, it may be beneficial to consider how the extended family may be involved in this process. Otherwise, cybernetics has a limited effect on nursing (Haefner, 2014).

Strengths and Limitations

The systems theory can be very beneficial not only to nursing but to any examination of society due to the complex interconnections that people have with each other and groups they create by association and relation. For family nursing, this approach helps to approach issues in a more nuanced manner and with a better understanding of the environment in which the patient lives. However, there is a disadvantage to this complexity. Some members of the family may be hesitant to be involved in the nursing process, and their lack of involvement may lead to a less successful outcome. In addition, the understanding of this theory may be difficult for an inexperienced nurse.

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Cybernetics is relatively straightforward when the core ideas are understood by the family nurse. They may be used to avoid false conclusions on the causes of issues within families and to gain a better understanding of their relationships. However, the application of cybernetics is very limited and requires the involvement of other theories to be effective (Östlund, Bäckström, Lindh, Sundin, & Saveman, 2015).

Integration of the Nursing Process at Different Levels of Prevention

The systems theory may be used on all three levels of prevention. During the primary prevention level, this theory allows the whole family to become less prone to illness even if only one person is immunized. The secondary prevention level is also affected because family members may monitor their relatives for the sign of symptoms that may lead to early diagnosis and treatment. Finally, during tertiary prevention, the family may assist a relative that requires help during the rehabilitation process. All of these elements are based on the interconnected nature of the family system (Bélanger, Bourbonnais, Bernier, & Benoit, 2017).

Cybernetics primarily operates on the secondary and tertiary levels of prevention. By focusing on creating a positive feedback process within the family, they may be able to assist their relatives during rehabilitation and identification of symptoms at the early stages of diseases. However, as previously stated, this theory should not be used independently of others (Haefner, 2014).


Both health-oriented and non-nursing theories of family interaction can be beneficial for family nursing. It is important to understand that the interconnected nature of the family structure may require a deeper understanding that such theories can provide. However, their limitations should be considered in advance.


Bélanger, L., Bourbonnais, A., Bernier, R., & Benoit, M. (2017). Communication between nurses and family caregivers of hospitalised older persons: A literature review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 26(5–6), 609-619.

Haefner, J. (2014). An application of Bowen family systems theory. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 35(11), 835-841.

Östlund, U., Bäckström, B., Lindh, V., Sundin, K., & Saveman, B. (2015). Nurses’ fidelity to theory-based core components when implementing Family Health Conversations – A qualitative inquiry. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 29(3), 582-590.

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Wright, L. M., & Leahey, M. (2012). Nurses and families: A guide to family assessment and intervention. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

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