The stronghold of America - the family - has become a subject of controversy, facing threats with serious social, political and legal ramifications, according to a new book co-edited by a Utah professor.

"Perspectives on the Family," published by The Edwin Mellen Press, identifies problems and offers some proposals for dealing with contemporary family issues.Editors include several University of Florida professors and Bruce Hafen, law professor and provost at Brigham Young University.

The book is a collection of essays by educators in philosophy, law and political science from colleges and universities throughout North America.

All of the authors differed in their views about modern family relations, but all are concerned about present social conditions, said University of Florida law professor and co-editor Robert C.L. Moffat.

"None of the authors feels that the status quo is ideal," he said, "But they differ on whether to return to a traditional view of the family or whether to think of new ways of responding to social realities."

Hafen said that while Americans are retreating from marital and family ties, homosexuals and others are demanding the right to enjoy the benefits of traditional family relationships.

He described the present as "the age of the waning of belonging" and said the retreat from traditional family bonds may be transpiring with too little attention given to replacing their social benefits.

While endorsing the priority given traditional families, Univeristy of Florida law professor Winston Nagan, president of the Policy Sciences Center at Yale Law School, said the focus should be on the substance, rather than the form, of affectionate relationships.

Many social and legal policies regarding families could be extended to other kinds of "affection units," including cohabitation, open marriage, contractually limited marriage, plural marriage and possibly same-sex and transsexual marriage, he said.

Virtually all of the authors writing about children agreed that the welfare of America's youth is so fundamental and threatened that it requires extensive government involvement, Moffat said.

One of the most far-reaching proposals recommends state regulation of reproduction as a means of ensuring equality for children.

"A number of the papers agree that children are a responsibility of society, and therefore society has a responsibility to care for them, to protect their welfare, and to take affirmative measures to see that they have equal opportunity," Moffat said.

He said many of America's social problems are a consequence of unstructured individualism and liberty.

"This book reflects the social development we've experienced during an extended period of increasing individualism, where people have exercised a great deal of liberty in terms of procreation without marriage, no-fault divorce, and the acceptance of non-married cohabitation," he said.

"Now, we are realizing the immense social problems we face as a result of the exercise of all that liberty without the support system that traditional structures provided."