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Keeping the Bar Low: Why Russia’s Nonresident Fathers Accept Narrow Fatherhood Ideals


Department of Comparative Sociology, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., CMB 1092, Tacoma, WA 98416-1092 (


Although most Russian nonresident fathers feel torn between old and new ideals of fatherhood, they end up accepting older, narrow ideals. Fathers reproduce the dominant gender discourse, which deems men irresponsible and infantile and diminishes the importance of fathers. On the basis of extensive fieldwork, including in-depth interviews (N = 21) and observational data, I argue that men reproduce minimalist standards of fatherhood because, in part, keeping the bar low enables them to still consider themselves decent fathers. In addition, fathers’ beliefs about the inherent deficiencies of nonresident fatherhood and the increased socioeconomic pressures and loosened constraints surrounding fatherhood in post-Soviet Russia converge to push fathers to settle for the status quo of detached fatherhood.