The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights have obliged legal culture concerned with minors and the family in various countries to face up to numerous problems related to their implementation. One crucial problem concerns balancing the conventional perspective of the superior interest, which hinges on the concept of protection, against the innovative perspective of the fundamental rights of the child, in particular of rights of freedom, which focuses on autonomy. In turn, these perspectives illustrate different images of infancy: from infancy projected into the future, according to the model characteristic of modernism, to the emancipated image of infancy on the road to adulthood as perceived by theorists of liberation, and to the late modern image of infancy that is still awaiting ultimate definition, which is used to express not only the more general trend towards the confirmation of individualism, but also - at least in the interpretation given to it by some authors - nostalgia for the loss of social identity. The article sets out to highlight how these images are reflected in legal culture, in particular underlining a new perspective now in the process of taking shape, which, in an attempt to reconcile a moderately paternalistic orientation with the recognition of autonomy, stresses both a new concept of protection as an expression of social rights and the importance of minors taking part in the decision-making processes themselves. The Italian government’s reports on the United Nations Convention presented to the Children’s Rights Committee and the Progress Report on Law 285/97 are then also used in an attempt to illustrate how these problems come to expression in Italian legal culture, which is still manifestly hesitant about flanking steps taken by way of protection with the proposal and enforcement of any steps designed to guarantee minors’ rights of freedom.