He was the first of four sons of William and Dorothea Rader.
As a child, Rader appeared outwardly normal and unremarkable.
He attended Riverview Elementary School. By his own admission, he says he developed fantasies about bondage, control and torture from an early age, while still in grade school. As he became sexual he dreamed of tying girls up and having his way with them.
He was a poor student all throughout his years in school.
He admits to having killed cats and dogs by hanging them as a youth. He learned he had to keep his developing inner world of bondage, torture and death a secret from everyone.
In the summer of 1966 at age 21 Rader joined the US Air Force, apparently to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War.
on May 22, 1971 Dennis Rader and Paula Dietz were married.