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<jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Purpose</jats:title> <jats:p>The purpose of this paper is to explore altruism born of suffering (ABS), a theory that explains how the experience of suffering within one’s own life may result in the motivation to help others, even outgroup members.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Design/methodology/approach</jats:title> <jats:p>Participants were 186 emerging adults (63 per cent female, 37 per cent male; 69 per cent Protestant, 41 per cent Catholic; average age =21.3, SD=2.57 years old) in Northern Ireland, a setting of protracted intergroup conflict. Participants were randomly assigned to an in/outgroup condition, read four types of adversity that occurred to same-sex victim(s), and indicated their empathetic response and how much they would like to help the victims.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Findings</jats:title> <jats:p>Moderated mediation analyses revealed that empathy for the victim partially mediated the impact of perceived harm on desire to help; moreover, recent negative life events strengthened the link between harm and empathy. The path between empathy and helping was stronger in the outgroup compared to the ingroup condition.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Practical implications</jats:title> <jats:p>These findings support ABS, highlighting empathy as a key factor underlying more constructive intergroup relations in a divided society.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Originality/value</jats:title> <jats:p>This paper extends previous research on ABS by focusing on a post-accord context. The value of the current analyses demonstrate the important role of fostering empathy to promote outgroup helping in settings of divisive group identities.</jats:p> </jats:sec>

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research



Publication Date





157 - 169