NCFR Olson Grant Announces Inaugural Recipients


David Olson
David H. Olson, Ph.D.

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) and David H. Olson, Ph.D., are proud to recognize Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, Ph.D., Pajarita Charles, Ph.D., Margaret Kerr, Ph.D., and Michael Massoglia, Ph.D., as the 2020 inaugural recipients of the NCFR Olson Grant: Bridging Research, Theory, and Practice. This new $10,000 annual grant is available to NCFR members working to creatively contribute to the discipline of Family Science by effectively uniting research, theory, and practice in their work.

The recipients’ grant proposal, Building Reflective Functioning, Cohesion, and Flexibility in Families with Incarcerated Parents Through Supported Visits, will test their own new relationship-based intervention for families with incarcerated parents. This intervention, the Enhanced Visits Model (EVM), integrates Olson’s Circumplex Model and John Bowlby’s attachment theory.

Having an incarcerated parent is a U.S. public health problem. More than 5 million children experience a resident parent’s incarceration, with significant racial and economic disparities. Research by Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan and others has found that children with incarcerated parents experience risk for behavior problems, health and mental health concerns, poor family relationships, and academic difficulties, and incarcerated parents experience risk for recidivism. Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan and her colleagues have also discovered that few interventions exist for children with incarcerated parents, and even fewer have been empirically investigated.

Given these issues, the primary goals of the EVM are: (1) to improve child well-being and increase secure attachments, (2) to increase reflective functioning in parents and caregivers through visit coaching so that they are better able to understand the child’s visit experiences and point of view and (3) to attain more balanced family cohesion and flexibility through improved family communication. There is great interest in the EVM among incarcerated parents and their families and among corrections facilities, especially now when in-person visits have been eliminated because of COVID-19.

In their decision, the selection committee praised the recipients for “undertaking an intervention project designed to address the challenges of mass incarceration for parents and their children.” The committee went on to note, “The study will focus on building family strengths within a vulnerable population – a value of both NCFR and Dr. Olson’s work. We believe this research study will be successful in journal submissions, conference presentations, and future citations.”

Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan and her colleagues will present findings of the intervention at the 2021 NCFR Annual Conference, scheduled to take place in Baltimore, Maryland.

The NCFR Olson Grant will accept proposals again in 2021 with an application deadline of March 31, 2021. Find complete details about the grant, eligibility criteria, and application process and requirements at


About the Recipients

Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, Ph.D.

Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, Ph.D., has brought attention to the issue of children with incarcerated parents through numerous publications and outreach efforts during the past 20 years. She is the Dorothy A. O’Brien professor of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan studies child and family health disparities and well-being from an interdisciplinary perspective, with the purpose of facilitating social justice for young children and their families and understanding and promoting resilience processes while decreasing risk and trauma exposure. She also designs and evaluates theory-based interventions for children and their parents, including interdisciplinary multimodal interventions that can be used in the criminal justice system and contemplative practices aimed at decreasing stress and increasing well-being in children and families.

Pajarita Charles, Ph.D.

Pajarita Charles, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research centers on the development, implementation, and testing of family-focused preventive interventions to promote positive outcomes for children and families affected by the criminal justice system. Dr. Charles’s work also includes fostering research, practice, and public sector partnerships to build capacity for criminal justice reform.

Margaret Kerr, Ph.D.

Margaret Kerr, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in human development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research focuses on examining links between attachment, emotions, and stress in the context of parent-child relationships. She is particularly interested in understanding in-the-moment emotional experiences of parents and the impact those experiences have on children.

Michael Massoglia, Ph.D.

Michael Massoglia, Ph.D., is the Romnes Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Formerly, he was a professor at Pennsylvania State University. His work focuses on the social consequences of the expansion of the penal system, the relationship between the use of legal controls and demographic change in the United States, and patterns and consequences of criminal behavior over the life course. His current research projects examine historical variation in U.S. criminal deportations as well as the relationship between incarceration and neighborhood attainment and racial composition.


About David H. Olson

David H. Olson, Ph.D., the namesake of the grant, is renowned for his many contributions to Family Science as a scholar, teacher, therapist, and professional.  He is an NCFR Fellow, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, and creator of the highly respected Circumplex Model of Couples and Families, which enables researchers and practitioners to examine a couple's relationship through the couple’s flexibility, cohesion, and communication skills. Dr. Olson also established the PREPARE/ENRICH program, used around the world for premarital education and marriage counseling.

The National Council on Family Relations is the premier professional association for the multidisciplinary understanding of families. NCFR has a membership of nearly 3,000 family researchers, practitioners and educators. For more information on the National Council on Family Relations or its scholarly publications, visit the NCFR website at