Unitary: A Concept for Analysis

By Cobb, Camille Bsn, Rn; Bean, Kathy B. PhD, Rn, Cgrn, Aprn, Bc | Journal of Theory Construction and Testing, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Unitary: A Concept for Analysis


Cobb, Camille Bsn, Rn, Bean, Kathy B. PhD, Rn, Cgrn, Aprn, Bc, Journal of Theory Construction and Testing


Abstract:

Unitary- whole and indivisible or an integration of components? Since Martha Roger's introduction of the concept unitary into the nursing literature in 1970, the concept unitary has been misunderstood. An exploration across the literature in four academic disciplines (government, theology, physics, and nursing) and non-academic literature offers an invitation to better understand the concept and its application in nursing.

Key Words: Concept analysis; Nursing theory; Unitary human beings

In 1970, Martha Rogers introduced the word unitary into the nursing discipline when she published her theory, Science of the Unitary Human Being. Other nursing theorists, researchers, and practitioners including Newman (1986), Orem (1971), Parse (1981), and Reed (1991) have built upon Roger's work. Without an in-depth understanding of the concept unitary, nurses cannot effectively use Rogers' theory. A modification of Walker and Avant's (2005) approach to concept analysis was used to explore the concept and generate its theoretical definition. Antecedents are events or circumstances that must exist for the concept to occur. Criteria are the defining attributes of the concept or what the concept is. Consequences are the outcome(s) of the concept being analyzed; they occur because the concept is present (Walker & Avant). Uses and descriptions of the concept within government, theological, physics, and non-scientific, non-academic literature are explored and juxtaposed with uses and descriptions of unitary within Roger's works and other nursing literature.

Uses and Descriptions of the Concept

Unitary governments have centralized authority (Gerring & Thacker, 2004; Peters, 2001; Wibbels, 2002). Centralized authority focuses power within the sovereign or ruling group. If territorial units exist, these units are not able to make decisions without the consent of the central government, alluding to the degree of cohesion and centralized power. Cohesion and centralization are consistent with the indivisible nature of the unitary government (Gerring & Thacker). Unitary governments are also described as evolutionary. Although evolution denotes a forward process, a unitary government emphasizes a top to bottom progression that subordinates dependent components.

The opposite of a unitary government, a federal government, includes independent authority, autonomy, and lack of a single apex (diZerega, 1994). Non-unitary or federal governments are described as divergent, autonomous governments that may lack equilibrium or coordination (Wibbels, 2002). This lack of coordination results in poorly managed macroeconomics. Coordination among components is complicated because the government shares power, and subunits or local levels have their own delegated powers.

Unitary is used as a descriptor within theology. It is applied to a Higher Being (Chittick, 2003) and is used by the Unitarian Universalist Church to describe God as unity in contrast to God as a trinity (casebolt & Niekro, 2005). Unitary means an "ineffable force that binds" and a "divine force" (casebolt & Niekro). Casebolt and Niekro apply unitary to the description of individuals' belief about the focus of their faith and their spiritual philosophies. The concept is also used to a describe perspectives (Crisp, 2001) and a religious structure's lack of cohesion (Scuka, 1987). Interpretations of Scripture are varied, even among a group experiencing a common life-changing event (Crisp) and differences among religions and models of faith indicate the opposite of unity. Unitary specifically excludes a religious body that is fragmented, secularized, or disengaged; it is comprehensive and not fragmented. Within Sufism, an Islamic tradition that emphasizes unitary relationships, God is the embodiment of unitary, being indivisible, yet embracing pluralism (Chittick, 2003).

Whether used to describe an operator, evolution, transformation, ability to implement, or theory, the concept unitary is used in physics to denote an indivisible occurrence, or one single whole. …

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