Advancing Active Allyship for Social Justice: Cross-Group Friendships, Social Empathy, and Political Engagement

Sep 7, 2022

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Collections of policies in the United States have produced and perpetuated ubiquitous social disadvantage. To overcome this reality, policymaking must be more democratic and participatory with active allyship in support of social justice. By deepening contextual understanding of systemic barriers and promoting macro perspective taking, social empathy may foster allyship from socially advantaged group members. However, research on the promise of social empathy and understanding of how to advance it remain nascent.

Social Work Research is a journal co-published by Oxford University Press and NASW. In the September 2022 issue of this journal, an article details a study on social empathy.

Drawing on the intergroup contact theory (ICT) and using a sample of white U.S. college students (N = 329), this study explores the relationship between cross-group friendships, social empathy, and political engagement. Having close friends of color was indirectly related to more political engagement through a serial pathway of greater sociopolitical discussions and social empathy.

The theoretical significance of these findings to the ICT and social empathy framework are discussed, as well as implications for intergroup contact interventions, social policy, and social work education.


Study authors:

  • Elizabeth Kiehne, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, College of Health & Human Sciences, Colorado State University
  • Quinn Hafen,MSW, is a PhD student, School of Social Work, College of Health & Human Sciences, Colorado State University



The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & Schools, Health & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members, either online or in print. You can find out more about the journals and subscriptions at this link.

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