Female labour force participation has increased constantly over the last thirty years in Australia. A number of theories and an established literature predict that such an increase in the performance of paid work by women will lead to a redistribution of unpaid work between men and women in the household. There is little evidence, however, of a corresponding redistribution of unpaid work within Australian households, raising a number of questions about the process through which paid and unpaid work is distributed between partners. A review of the literature considers economic and sociological approaches to the domestic division of labour and how the distribution of paid and unpaid work between partners has been understood, measured and explained. This review identifies two related problems in the existing explanatory frameworks; one theoretical, and one empirical. First, existing explanatory frameworks make assumptions about either unilateral, exchange or bargaining decision making processes between partners, rather than empirically establishing the process through which decisions are made. These untested assumptions about the decision making process lead to an empirical problem, whereby the interpretation of empirical data relies on establishing associations between the individual characteristics of household members and the subsequent distribution of time spent on different tasks. By examining the decision making process that is subsumed within the existing explanatory frameworks, this thesis addresses a gap in the literature. Results in the established literature rely on the strength of assumptions about the decision making process in these explanatory frameworks and neglect alternative possibilities. More recent studies provide alternative explanations about the allocation of time within households which consider the independent behaviour of autonomous individuals as well as their perceptions and preferences about paid and unpaid work. These insights guide the construction of this study, with additional consideration given to how individuals perceive, anticipate and make decisions about work and family, taking account of both the established and alternative explanations for the allocation of time to paid and unpaid work. Specifically, the research question asks: what is the decision making process when allocating time to paid and unpaid work in the household? Two component questions sit within this, firstly: what type of decision is it – autonomous, unilateral, exchange or bargaining? And secondly: what is the basis for the decision – income, preference or gender? In order to counter the empirical problems identified in both recent studies and the established literature, and pursue the research questions, a qualitative strategy of data collection and analysis is implemented. Based on replication logic, a target sample of sixty respondents is constructed, containing ten men and ten women from each of three purposefully identified life situations; undergraduate, graduate and parent. This sample allows for the comparative analysis of results between and across samples of men and women drawn from different stages of work and family formation. Subsequently the interview schedule is detailed, along with the composition of the final sample, made up of male and female undergraduates, male and female graduates, mothers and fathers who are also graduates. The results of the interviews are presented in three separate chapters in accordance with the different life situations of the interviewees, namely male and female undergraduates, male and female graduates, and male and female parents who are also graduates. Following the three results chapters is a detailed analysis and discussion of the key findings in the final chapters. Findings from the research indicate that the decision making process is based on gender and operates independent of partners in an autonomous manner. Indeed, gender is seen to be pervasive in the decision making process, with gendered expectations evident in the responses of all men and women in the sample, and taking effect prior to household formation, before decisions about work and family need to be made. The findings demonstrate that, independent of one another, men and women have implicit assumptions about how they will manage demands between work and family. Men in the study are shown to be expecting to fulfil and fulfilling the role of breadwinner in the household, with a continuous attachment to the workforce, whereas women in the study are shown to be expecting to accommodate and accommodating additional care demands in the household, impacting on their attachment to the workforce. These implicit assumptions by men and women conspire to limit the range of options perceived in the household when decisions about work and family need to be made and prevent households from redistributing paid and unpaid work responsibilities between partners in accordance with their economic needs and preferences. These findings also highlight institutional constraints that prevent the redistribution of paid and unpaid work between partners, reinforcing the delineation in the division of labour between household members. In the process this study makes two key contributions to the existing literature, firstly with a method for the investigation of the hitherto untested decision making process, and secondly with findings that demonstrate an alternative decision making process to that which is assumed in the existing explanatory frameworks, which takes account of the gendered expectations of men and women independently.