A two-parameter constraint-based fracture mechanics approach is used to explain the effect of the constraint on the apparently anomalous behavior of short fatigue cracks. The different levels of stress constraint are quantified by the T-stress, and microstructurally as well as mechanically short cracks are discussed. Short cracks generally behave more sensitively to the constraint than the long ones. It is shown that in most cases, the existence of short cracks goes hand in hand with an intrinsic loss of the constraint, which contributes to a decrease of their fatigue threshold values and accelerates their growth. In this paper, the above effect is quantified and conclusions concerning the applicability of the fracture mechanics parameters and approaches to the estimation of the residual fatigue life of structures are discussed.