Sister Callista Roy: Adaptation Theory


Sister Callista Roy is a prominent nurse theorist, writer, lecturer, researcher and teacher. She was born at Los Angeles on October 14, 1939 as the 2nd child of Mr. and Mrs. Fabien Roy.  She graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles in 1963 where she earned a Bachelor of Arts with a major in nursing degree. She also received a master’s degree program in pediatric nursing at the University of California ,Los Angeles in 1966 and earned a master’s and PhD in Sociology in 1973 and 1977 , respectively.
Sister Callista Roy  joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s College in 1966, teaching both pediatric and maternity nursing. She organized course content according to a view of person and family as adaptive systems. She introduced her ideas about ‘Adaptation Nursing’ as the basis for an integrated nursing curriculum.  In 1971 she was made chair of the nursing department at the college.

The Metaparadigm Of Sister Callista Roy’s Adaptation Model


• An adaptive system with coping processes
• Described as a whole comprised of parts
• Functions as a unity for some purpose
• Includes people as individuals or in groups (families, organizations, communities, nations, and society as a whole)
• An adaptive system with cognator and regulator subsystems acting to maintain adaptation in the four adaptive modes: physiologic-physical, self-concept-group identity, role function, and interdependence


• All conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding and affecting the development and behavior of persons and groups with particular consideration of mutuality of person and earth resources
• Three kinds of stimuli: focal, contextual, and residual
• Significant stimuli in all human adaptation include stage of development, family, and culture


• Nursing is the science and practice that expands adaptive abilities and enhances person and environment transformation
• Nursing goals are to promote adaptation for individuals and groups in the four adaptive modes, thus contributing to health, quality of life, and dying with dignity
• This is done by assessing behavior and factors that influence adaptive abilities and by intervening to expand those abilities and to enhance environmental interactions


• Health: a state and process of being and becoming integrated and whole that reflects person and environmental mutuality
Adaptation: the process and outcome whereby thinking and feeling persons, a individuals and in groups, use conscious awareness and choice to create human and environmental integration
• Adaptive Responses: responses that promotes integrity in terms of the goals of the human system, that is, survival, growth, reproduction, mastery, and personal and environmental transformation
• Ineffective Responses: responses that do not contribute to integrity in terms of the goals of the human system
• Adaptation levels represent the condition of the life processes described on three different levels: integrated, compensatory, and compromised


Scientific Assumptions

  • Systems of matter and energy progress to higher levels of complex self organization
  • Consciousness and meaning are constitutive of person and environment integration
  • Awareness of self and environment is rooted in thinking and feeling
  • Human decisions are accountable for the integration of creative processes.
  • Thinking and feeling mediate human action
  • System relationships include acceptance, protection, and fostering of interdependence
  • Persons and the earth have common patterns and integral relations
  • Person and environment transformations are created in human consciousness
  • Integration of human and environment meanings results in adaptation

Philosophical Assumptions

  • Persons have mutual relationships with the world and God
  • Human meaning is rooted in an omega point convergence of the universe
  • God is intimately revealed in the diversity of creation and is the common destiny of creation
  • Persons use human creative abilities of awareness, enlightenment, and faith
  • Persons are accountable for the processes of deriving, sustaining, and transforming the universe

4 Modes of Adaptation

1. Physiologic-Physical Mode

  • Behavior pertaining to the physical aspect of the human system
  • Physical and chemical processes
  • Nurse must be knowledgeable anput normal processes
  • 5 needs (Oxygenation, Nutrition, Elimination, Activity & Rest, and Protection)

2. Self-Concept Identity Mode

  • The composit of beliefs and feelings held about oneself at a given time
  • Focus on the psychological and spiritual aspects of the human system
  • Need to know who one is, so that one can exist with a stage of unity, meaning, and purposefulness
  • 2 modes (physical self and personal self)

3. Role Function Mode

  • Set of expectations about how a person occupying one position behaves toward a person occupying another position
  • Basic need-social integrity, the need to know who one is in relation to others.

4. Interdependence Mode

  • Behavior pertaining to interdependent relationships of individuals and groups
  • Focus on the close relationships of people and their purpose
  • Each relationship exists for some reason
  • Involves the willingness and ability to give to others and accept from others
  • Balance results in feelings of being valued and supported by others
  • Basic need-feeling of security in relationships.


  • Wills M.Evelyn, McEwen Melanie (2002). Theoretical Basis for Nursing Philadelphia. Lippincott Williams& wilkins.
  • Meleis Ibrahim Afaf (1997) , Theoretical Nursing : Development & Progress 3rd ed. Philadelphia,  Lippincott.
  • Taylor Carol,Lillis Carol (2001)The Art & Science  Of Nursing Care 4th ed. Philadelphia,  Lippincott.

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